Los Angeles, Calif. - (January 20, 2009) The promoter of an $18 million real estate investment scheme that targeted African-American individuals in Southern California and other states was sentenced today to 151 months in federal prison.
Jeanetta M. Standefor, a 40-year-old resident of Altadena, California, was sentenced in Los Angeles federal court by United States District Judge Percy Anderson. In addition to the prison term, Judge Anderson ordered Standefor to pay $8,688,924.
Through her Pasadena-based company, Accelerated Funding Group (AFG), Standefor operated a bogus "foreclosure reinstatement" program that attracted more than 600 investors between 2005 and 2007. The scheme purported to use investors' funds to cure defaults on distressed properties about to be put into foreclosure. While soliciting investor money and promising returns of up to 50 percent in time periods as short as one month, Standefor and AFG were instead operating a Ponzi scheme that used money from new investors to pay previous investors.
Standefor pleaded guilty in September 2008 to two counts of mail fraud.
"Ms. Standefor exploited the housing crisis for her own benefit with false promises of help for troubled homeowners and fictitious profits for those willing to help,” said United States Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien. “While there are legitimate companies that work with distressed homeowners, investors and mortgage holders must carefully consider any offer of assistance, particularly when there are suspicious promises that seem too good to be true.”
Standefor’s fraud was what is commonly called “affinity fraud,” that is, a fraud directed at a particular community. Standefor and AFG targeted investors in the African-American community through a now-defunct Web site, word of mouth, real estate seminars and testimonials by other seemingly successful African-American investors.
Standefor claimed investor funds would be used to assist owners of distressed properties. Written materials put out by AFG touted its foreclosure reinstatement program as "virtually risk-free" and promised investors that their principal would be safely returned within 72 hours at their request. However, Standefor and AFG did not use investor funds to cure defaults on any residential properties, and investors' requests for return of their investments were ignored.
Standefor used more than $1.9 million of investor funds for personal expenses, such as her lavish wedding and honeymoon, cars, jewelry, tickets to entertainment events and home renovations.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In conjunction with the indictment against Standefor, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil action against Standefor and AFG. The SEC obtained a default against Standefor and AFG on September 18, 2008.
SOURCE: United State Department of Justice -- Central District of California