Celia Gallardo, once one of the rising stars of the Santa Clarita Valley, was arrested by federal authorities Tuesday and charged with 16 counts of federal wire and mail fraud charges in connection with a million dollar Ponzi scheme.
The 42-year old Gallardo had several companies, including Gold Feather Realty and Gold Credit Investments in Newhall, and is accused of bilking dozens of investors out of their life savings, based on a real estate investment program she promoted.
A federal grand jury indicted Gallardo on Tuesday, accusing her of bilking dozens of investors who put money into Gallardo’s purported real estate investment program. Gallardo told the investors that she would purchase condominiums in other states and that these properties would yield extremely high rates of return in very short time periods—as much as a 100 percent return in only 30 days, according to the indictment.
Gallardo allegedly assured victims that their money was safe. She issued “Promissory Notes” to investors that “confirmed” their money was being used in the purported real estate transactions. However, as alleged in the indictment, Gallardo spent a majority of investor funds on undisclosed and unauthorized purposes, including her residence, foreign luxury travel, cash withdrawals, and to repay certain earlier investors to perpetuate the scheme. The victims, including investors in California and Arizona, lost more than $1 million.
The investigation into Gallardo’s shady dealings began in 2007 and has taken federal agents more than three years to carefully untangle the web of deceit woven by the charismatic woman. She was arraigned Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles and pleaded not guilty to charges contained in the 16-count indictment. She is free on a $75,000 bond per U.S. Magistrate Judge Carla Woerhle. The case was assigned to United States District Judge Dean D. Pregerson, who scheduled a trial for Sept. 4.
The indictment charges Gallardo with nine counts of wire fraud and seven counts of mail fraud. If she is convicted of all 16 counts in the indictment, Gallardo would face a maximum possible sentence of 320 years in federal prison.