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Press Release

San Francisco Man Sentenced To 63 Months In Prison For Fleecing Victims In Fraudulent Investment Schemes

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of California
Defendant’s schemes defrauded victims of more than $2 million

SAN FRANCISCO – Min Jin Zhao was sentenced to over five years in prison and ordered to pay $1,883,503.93 in restitution for defrauding investors in two separate investment schemes, announced United States Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey and FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert K. Tripp. The sentence was handed down by the Hon. Vince Chhabria, U.S. District Judge.

Zhao, 60, of San Francisco, pleaded guilty to the charges on February 6, 2023. According to his plea agreement, Zhao admitted he devised and participated in fraudulent schemes targeting two separate victims.

In the first scheme, Zhao convinced his victim that he would invest her money using a corporation he called “Big Block Consulting, Inc.” (BBC). From 2017 to 2021 Zhao claimed he would invest her money through BBC, convincing his victim to hand over her retirement for a 10% monthly return. Zhao admitted he knew the victim for three years prior to the point at which he convinced her to hand over her savings to him. Zhao also admitted in this plea agreement that he did not invest any of the over $2 million the victim gave him for her retirement. In documents filed in connection with Zhao’s sentencing, the government argued that Zhao’s victim trusted him because she believed Zhao was a dear friend; the victim gave Zhao her entire retirement savings, leaving her with so little to spend that she, at times, was forced to send him text messages in which she requested small sums so she could pay for personal expenses. Zhao admitted in the plea agreement that he used the funds in part to purchase a condominium in Indian Wells, Calif. 

In the second scheme, Zhao falsely asserted to his victim that he was a film executive at Sony. Zhao admitted in his plea agreement that from 2018 to 2021, he attempted to convince his victim to invest $500,000 in BBC in exchange for allowing his victim to become an executive producer on BBC’s movie projects. Zhao acknowledged in his plea agreement that he was never associated with Sony, nor was he ever a film executive. Zhao admitted that he and his victim signed a written contract and the victim forwarded to Zhao a money wire in the amount of $300,000. Zhao admitted he did not invest the money as he promised his victim he would. The government submitted documents asserting that Zhao’s victim borrowed the $300,000 from a family member to provide the funds for the investment. 
On January 5, 2022, a federal grand jury handed down a superseding indictment charging Zhao with three counts of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343. Zhao pleaded guilty to all three counts. 

In addition to the prison term, Judge Chhabria ordered Zhao to serve a three-year period of supervised release and to pay $1,883,503.93 in restitution. Judge Chhabria also issued an order of forfeiture for Zhao’s interest in the Indian Wells property.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alethea Sargent is prosecuting the case. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI.

Updated April 21, 2023