Former Clovis Resident Sentenced to More than 12 Years in Prison for Running $24 Million Ponzi Scheme
FRESNO, Calif. — Seth Adam Depiano, 37, formerly of Clovis, was sentenced on Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd to 12 years and seven months in prison following his guilty pleas to mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering charges, 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 him. He also paid investors purported rental income that, in fact, was money other investors gave to Depiano for investment purposes.
Depiano admitted to defrauding investors of approximately $24 million and was ordered by the court to pay restitution to investors of more than $19.6 million. Depiano also was ordered 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 was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher D. Baker prosecuted the case.