LOS ANGELES (AP) — A former financial advisor who conned elderly people out of their retirement savings in a real estate investment scam was sentenced Monday to 14 years in federal prison and ordered to pay nearly $12.6 million in restitution to the victims, prosecutors said.
Paul Ricky Mata, 58, of Oceanside was sentenced in Los Angeles after pleading guilty in July to 17 felonies, including mail and wire fraud and concealing assets in bankruptcy, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement.
Between 2008 and 2015, Mata convinced people to invest in several businesses that falsely promised annual returns of 5% to 10% on “government-backed tax liens,” distressed homes and commercial properties and “asset-backed deed certificates,” the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Mata used the money for personal expenses and loans to himself, prosecutors said.
In a sentencing memorandum, prosecutors said many victims were retirees that Mata met through church.
“He prayed with them, professed to share values and beliefs with them, and he acted like they were his friends,” prosecutors said.
Mata had a history of disciplinary actions for misconduct from federal and state regulators in Nevada and California, including fines and suspensions, authorities said.
Mata previously was ordered to pay more than $11.7 million in a 2015 lawsuit filed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and $20.3 million in fines and restitution in a case brought by the California Department of Business Oversight, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
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