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June 11, 2012

Fullerton Man Charged in Ponzi Scheme Targeting Elderlly

Fullerton man charged in Ponzi scheme targeting elderly
Michael Z. Zuniga and an associate bilked 18 victims out of nearly $700,000.
June 9, 2012
By SCOTT MARTINDALE / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

A Fullerton man has been arrested on charges he co-ran a $1.3 million real estate fraud scheme targeting Latino investors, many of whom were elderly, authorities announced Friday.
Michael Z. Zuniga, 41, was taken into custody earlier this month on multiple counts of grand theft, elder abuse and securities fraud in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme, state officials said. His bail was set at $50,000.
Zuniga and his business partner, Edwin G. Salazar, 34, of Downey, are accused of bilking 18 people out of nearly $700,000 in funds over an 18-month period. The pair used the funds for personal uses, authorities said.
Between January 2007 and June 2008, the licensed insurance agents, operating as Omega Investment Group of Downey, issued more than $1.3 million in fraudulent securities, authorities said.
"The investor gave them money, and they issued to the investor a security, but it was a false security and there was nothing to back it up," state Department of Justice spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill said Saturday.
Authorities said the investors, who were often senior citizens, were convinced to refinance their homes and take out money to invest in Omega.
Zuniga and Salazar allegedly promised the investors a guaranteed 15 percent return on investment, claiming it was "risk-free" because of Omega's strong track record of buying and selling homes in foreclosure, authorities said.
But in classic Ponzi fashion, the pair used new investments to pay off previous investors, authorities said.
"What victims thought was a resourceful real estate investment only brought them losses and heartbreak," state Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said in a statement.
Gledhill said Omega has since been shut down, but the investigation is ongoing.
– City News Service contributed to this report.

SOURCE:   The OrangeCountyRegister

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