Clovis Man Pleads Guilty to Running $24M Ponzi Scheme
FRESNO, Calif. — Seth Adam Depiano, 36, of Clovis, pleaded guilty today to mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering in connection with a real estate investment Ponzi scheme, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
According to court documents, Depiano operated a Ponzi scheme that lured real estate investors to give money to Depiano and the businesses he controlled, including The Rental Group, US Funding and Home Services LLC, and Draymond Homes. Depiano fraudulently promised investors that he would use their money to purchase residential properties and either manage the properties for rental income or arrange for them to be renovated and resold. In many cases, Depiano promoted the properties to investors with documents that falsely represented high occupancy rates. Depiano oftentimes had no authority to purchase or sell the properties and misled investors with fraudulent documents misrepresenting the properties’ ownership. Some of the properties Depiano marketed to investors did not even exist.
Depiano frequently used the investors’ money to pay his personal expenses, fund his gambling activities, and finance the settlement of the investors’ civil lawsuits against Depiano. He also paid investors purported rental income that, in fact, was money other investors gave to Depiano for investment purposes.
In his plea agreement, Depiano admitted to defrauding investors of approximately $24 million dollars and agreed to pay restitution to approximately 28 investors. Depiano also agreed to forfeit more than $700,000 seized from several bank accounts and cash, and a baseball card collection valued at more than $31,000.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher D. Baker is prosecuting the case.
Depiano is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd on May 29, 2018 at 1:30 p.m. Depiano faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison for the mail fraud and wire fraud charges, ten years in prison for money laundering, and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.