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Valley Real Estate Agent Agrees to Plead Guilty to $2.2 Million Ponzi Scheme

Celia Gallardo could face a maximum sentence of 20 years and be ordered to make full restitution to her victims, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

A North Hills real estate agent has agreed to plead guilty to running a $2.2 million Ponzi scheme out of companies based in the Santa Clarita Valley, prosecutors announced Monday.

agreed in papers filed Friday to plead guilty to wire fraud for perpetrating the Ponzi scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

In the plea agreement, Gallardo acknowledged that she defrauded investors from September 2007 through September 2008 by falsely promising them high rates of return for investing in her purported real estate program, prosecutors said.

Gallardo admitted that she failed to invest victims' money in real estate, and diverted the vast majority of the money on house payments, foreign luxury travel, cash withdrawals, and Ponzi payments to earlier investors.

The plea agreement details how one investor lost $500,000 after Gallardo pressured him to invest quickly with claims that her investment program consisted of buying unfinished condominiums for pennies on the dollar in Florida and Tennessee, according to federal prosecutors.

Gallardo admitted that her scheme caused losses of at least $2.2 million to dozens of victims, who primarily resided in California and Arizona, court papers show.

Gallardo will formally plead guilty at an undetermined future date, and then face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. She likely will be ordered to make full restitution to her victims, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

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