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October 21, 2014

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Former loan officer gets prison time in Ponzi scheme

A former loan officer from Henderson was sentenced today to more than six years in prison and will pay $830,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to defrauding at least 16 clients, according to the United States Attorney’s Office in Nevada.

Under the sentence handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Gloria M. Navarro, Kamalu Gonzales, 47, is also subject to five years of supervised release after serving 78 months in prison.

Gonzalez is scheduled to self-report to federal prison on April 17.

Gonzales pleaded guilty in August to two counts of mail fraud, six counts of wire fraud, and two counts of money laundering.

According to prosecutors, Gonzales was running a Ponzi scheme in which he paid off investors he recruited, some through his mortgage refinancing business, with funds from new investors.

Gonzales received about $1 million total from at least 16 victims in 2007 and 2008, diverting roughly $410,000 for his own purposes, authorities said.

“Prosecuting persons who commit financial fraud crimes is a top priority of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nevada,” U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said in a statement. “Many of these persons target elderly and other vulnerable victims. If someone promises you an investment opportunity with unusually high rates of return, it is likely that the opportunity is fraudulent and that you will lose your money.”

According to the U.S. attorney’s statement, Gonzales worked as a loan officer for Meridias Capital in 2007.

Gonzales worked on home mortgage refinancing, and falsified loan applications to obtain refinancing and money for which the applicants would not normally qualify, authorities said.

He claimed to be a successful investor and trader on the foreign currency exchange market and recruited people to invest in the market with him, claiming they could quickly earn high rates of return, authorities said.

In some cases, Gonzales convinced clients to invest some of the money he had gotten for them through the fraudulent mortgage refinancing applications, officials said.

According to prosecutors, Gonzales repeatedly lied to the investors and told them their investments were doing well, sometimes paying them using money from more recent investors.

The investigation was a join effort of the FBI, IRS and Henderson Police Department.

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