Arcadia Woman Pleads Guilty to Fraud Scheme Involving Nearly $23 Million Intended for Coachella Hotel and Condo Development
LOS ANGELES – A San Gabriel Valley woman pleaded guilty today to a federal criminal charge for overseeing a scheme in which she misappropriated much of $23 million in funds intended for a hotel and condominium complex in the Coachella Valley, and then used the money to finance her lavish lifestyle.
Ruixue “Serena” Shi, 37, of Arcadia, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.
According to her plea agreement, from November 2015 to July 2018, Shi was the general manager of Global House Buyer LLC (GHB), a China-based real estate company that had an office in Los Angeles. Shi identified approximately 47 acres of land in Coachella to build Hyde Resorts and Residences Coachella Valley.
Shi contacted representatives of Dakota Development, a real estate development subsidiary of the Los Angeles-based lifestyle hospitality company SBE Entertainment, about using SBE’s “Hyde” brand, which was a luxury hotel and nightlife brand owned by SBE. Through these discussions, Shi reached an agreement with Dakota Development that the Hyde Development would be developed under SBE’s brand name “Hyde.”
Hyde Resorts was supposed to be a 207-unit luxury condominium and hotel complex with 95,000 square feet of conference facilities, a pool, spa, fitness center and other amenities.
Shi solicited investments in the Hyde complex from victims, the majority of whom were Chinese investors, by giving sales presentations at hotels and contacting victims over WeChat, a Chinese messaging, social media and mobile payment application.
To induce the victims to invest in the Hyde complex, Shi made false and fraudulent statements to them, including that their money only would be used to fund the Hyde development project, even though she intended to use victims’ money for her own personal expenses.
Relying on Shi’s false and fraudulent statements, victims wired money to her, mostly from China. For example, in October 2016, one victim wired $50,000 from a bank account in China to a Shi-controlled bank account in Los Angeles. In total, approximately $22,833,441 was transferred from bank accounts in China to Shi-controlled bank accounts.
After Shi received the victim funds, she spent nearly $300,000 in victim funds to purchase two luxury cars. She also spent approximately $2.2 million in victim funds at a company that provided luxury travel and concierge services. Shi also admitted spending almost $800,000 in victim funds at a full-service styling agency in Beverly Hills, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars of victims’ money on high-end clothing designers, restaurants and other stores.
United States District Judge R. Gary Klausner has scheduled a March 28 sentencing hearing, at which time Shi will face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. Shi has been in federal custody since August 2020.
The FBI investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorneys Alexander C.K. Wyman and Alexander B. Schwab of the Major Frauds Section are prosecuting this case.