A onetime Santa Clarita Realtor who bilked investors out of millions in the Santa Clarita, San Fernando and Antelope valleys, was sentenced to 60 months, a federal prosecutor said Monday.
In a plea agreement made Oct. 12, 2012, Celia Gallardo, 42, of North Hills, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.
“We are pleased with the outcome,” said Sarah J. Heidel, assistant U.S. attorney. “I think that in this case, the judge was compelled by the fact that it was a straight rip-off.”
In many fraud prosecutions, there is often the hope, albeit small or unlikely, that there may be a return for investors, she said.
But there wasn’t “a kernel of hope” for investors, Heidel said, noting that the U.S. government was recommending a sentence of 41 months, and Judge Doug Pregerson went above and beyond that with his sentence as a result.
The federal criminal justice system does not allow for parole, and all criminals must serve at least 85 percent of their sentence, said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Pregerson also ordered restitution for Gallardo’s victims.
“The court ordered $2,389,400 in restitution tied to specific losses,” Heidel said. “Upon her release, (Gallardo) will be obligated to start paying that money back.”
The plea agreement also called for full restitution, which was estimated at $2,245,000, according to a plea agreement made with U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte last year.
The agreement notes that Gallardo willfully misled investors in the Santa Clarita, Valencia and Newhall areas, into believing she was a real estate agent who could secure very high rates of return for investments.
“She would get investors like myself and she’d tell us that she’d triple our money within 90 days,” said Robert Montoya, a former Saugus resident who now lives in Sylmar.
Montoya wants to make sure that Gallardo isn’t able to ever victimize anyone else ever again, whenever she is eventually released.
“I just want to make sure that for the record, it’s publicly known and it doesn’t get swept under the rug,” Montoya said. “I want to make sure that it’s out there and she gets branded and it’s on every search engine.”
Gallardo operated the companies Gold Feather Realty and Gold Credit Investments from September 2007 to September of 2008 to further this fraud, according to court documents.
Instead of investing the money in the phony promissory notes, she guaranteed to investors, she spent the “great majority of it on her personal residence, personal purchases, foreign luxury travel, cash withdrawals” and, in pyramid scheme-like fashion, to pay back earlier investors.
Under federal guidelines, the base offense level is 7, on a scale of 0-43. The fact that the loss was more than $1 million adds a factor of 16, and the fact that there was more than 10 victims adds a factor of 2.
The terms of the negotiation include a reduction of 2, or possibly 3, which approximate Gallardo’s offense level at 23.
This would indicate a sentence in the range of 46-57 months, assuming no prior convictions. However, a judge is not obligated to follow these guidelines, Mrozek said.
The federal criminal justice system does not allow for parole, and all criminals must serve at least 85 percent of their sentence, Mrozek added.
Gallardo was living in North Hills at the time of her plea deal, according to documents.
Gallardo also is listed as a founder or president of several businesses in the Santa Clarita Valley, including Women’s Personal and Financial Empowerment Seminars, Quick Appraisals, Quick Notary (which was suspended by the Franchise Tax Board in January 2006), Gold Feather Realty, Inc. (which was suspended by the California Franchise Tax Board in March 2008), Dare To Dream Marketing, CSC Lawyers Incorporating Services and is a part owner of To Go Services, LLC, a restaurant delivery service. In the Antelope Valley, she is listed as the president of eppraisals, Gallardo Property Management (which shows a “Desist and Refrain” order from the California Department of Real Estate as of May 2003) and Casa Bella Mortgage, Inc.
While several of her companies websites claim she is a Realtor and a real estate broker, handouts for Gold Credit Investments carry a tiny disclaimer at the bottom of the page that says Gallardo is not a Realtor or broker, but merely a “facilitator.”
Her sentencing was previously scheduled for March, and then moved to April and then May, according to court records.