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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Central District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, November 21, 2022

Santa Clarita Man Sentenced to Nearly 6½ Years in Prison for Stealing $1.7 Million from Investors via His Real Estate ‘Coupon Bond’ Scam

          LOS ANGELES – A Santa Clarita resident who invested in real estate and sold “coupon bonds” that promised regular interest payments on top of principal repayment was sentenced today to 77 months in federal prison for defrauding investors out of more than $1.7 million.

          Matthew Skinner, 45, was sentenced by United States District Judge Percy Anderson, who also ordered him to pay $1,744,946 in restitution.

          Skinner pleaded guilty on June 1 to one count of securities fraud.

          In 2014, Skinner founded a company called Empire West Equity Inc. and later established another business named Simple Growth LLC. Skinner used social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube to promote himself, falsely claiming to be an experienced and successful real estate investor with more than $200 million in deals under his belt.

          After Empire West experienced financial troubles – Skinner was unable to pay his staff and investors – he established Simple Growth in 2018 and falsely told investors who purchased Simple Growth coupon bonds “that their money would be used to purchase real estate that [Skinner] and Empire West would develop and resell at a profit,” according to court documents.

          Skinner did not intend to purchase, develop or resell real estate, and that he instead used investor funds to pay older investors, his employees and himself. Instead, Skinner used investor funds from those entities and accounts to pay for personal trips, his mortgage, his utility bills, cosmetic surgery, and alimony payments to his ex-wife.

          Simple Growth raised approximately $1,744,946 from more than 20 investors – none of whom received any of their money back.

          “Several of the victims were elderly and were seeking safe investment opportunities,” prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum. “Several of the victims described how [Skinner} repeatedly lied to them and made-up excuses of why he was unable to make the quarterly interest payments.”

          The FBI investigated this case.

          Assistant United States Attorney Jeff Mitchell of the Major Frauds Section prosecuted this case.

Topic(s): 
Elder Justice
Financial Fraud
Contact: 
Ciaran McEvoy Public Information Officer ciaran.mcevoy@usdoj.gov (213) 894-4465
Press Release Number: 
22-246
Updated November 22, 2022