A Clovis man who is suspected of operating a Ponzi scheme was arrested in Las Vegas, the U.S. Attorney’s office said Friday.
Seth Adam DePiano, 36, is charged in a criminal complaint with mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert said.
According to court documents, DePiano operated a Ponzi scheme that lured real estate investors into giving him and the businesses he controlled — The Rental Group, U.S. Funding and Home Services LLC, and Draymond Homes — more than $20 million.
DePiano is suspected of fraudulently promising investors that he would use their money to purchase residential properties and either manage the properties for rental income or arrange for renovation and resale.
According to court documents, in many cases, DePiano promoted the properties to investors with documents falsely representing high-occupancy rates, the government said. He frequently had no authority to purchase or sell properties and misled investors with fraudulent documents misrepresenting the properties’ ownership, the federal government said.
According to prosecutors, some of the properties DePiano marketed to investors did not even exist. DePiano paid investors purported rental income that, in fact, was money other investors had given him for investment purposes.
This case was filed following an FBI probe with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada.
If convicted, DePiano faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for the mail fraud and wire fraud charges, 10 years in prison for money laundering, and a $250,000 fine.
DePiano previously operated a business called Sober Guys in Fresno, which closed in 2013. The business provided rides to intoxicated people. He was also named to the “Forty Under 40” group of young up-and-coming professionals in 2013 by Business Street Online. DePiano played football for Clovis High School’s 1999 team, which won the Valley title.