Houman Fakhimi

Coto De Caza Man Convicted of Embezzling $2.8 Million From Seniors

A 57-year-old Coto de Caza financial planner was convicted recently of stealing $2.8 million from 33 seniors in a tax-free bond scheme, The Orange County Register reports.

With the economy so poor right now, many people are resorting to embezzlement schemes in Orange County that seek to steal money from people through various white collar criminal plans.

But that's not to say that every investment plan, real estate deal or financial planning situation is a scheme. And, sadly, that approach has been taken by many investigators in recent years. With many people making bad investment choices, combined with the economy tanking, law enforcement have been looking for people to blame.

And this has led to many people's names being tarnished in prosecutions throughout Orange County and much of the rest of the nation. Santa Ana criminal defense attorneys have seen police and prosecutors bring weak cases simply because they have pressure from the public and their bosses to ensure someone is arrested.

In this case, the man recently pleaded guilty to 30 felony counts, including elder and grand theft. The newspaper reports he is expected to be sentenced to 18 years in prison for the crimes to which he has admitted guilt.

Strangely, the crime dates back to 1997, but the man was just recently charged. According to prosecutors, he stole the money over a one-year period starting that year, convincing seniors to invest in bonds, but he intended to keep the money himself.

Many of the victims had known the man since he was a child and were friends of his father's church. The state says he targeted people who trusted him, including people who were suffering from dementia or were recently widowed.

The state alleges that the man used the money he stole for homes in Coto de Caza and Mammoth, on a golf club membership and on cars. They say he told victims he was a lawyer, though he isn't and produced fake documents to ensure the investments were safe.

These investment plans can be very complex. They typically involve a person or company handling the investment dollars of many people and can involve the bond or stock markets or highly fluctuating real estate prices.

Well, five years ago, the economy looked fine and now it's terrible, so it's likely that many investment opportunities tied to real estate and the economy went in the tank. But because of the general perception that investment leaders are scam artists, investors are pointing fingers. They are now coming out saying they were ripped off and tricked.

No investment opportunity is 100 percent fail-proof, yet investors are complaining to police that they were told they would have high returns. And, in turn, police investigators are digging into company's private records hoping to find something out of the ordinary enough to bring charges.

There have certainly been a number of investment schemes in recent years, but that doesn't mean that every person offering an investment is a scam artist. Yet, if the deal fails, that's how they are treated. And they deserve strong criminal defense representation in order to ensure the truth comes out at trial.