A Clovis man accused of operating a real estate Ponzi scheme pleaded guilty on Monday to mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering as party of a plea deal, the U.S. Attorney's Office reported.
Seth Adam DePiano, 36, admitted to defrauding investors of about $24 million and agreed to pay restitution to 28 investors. He also agreed to forfeit more than $700,000 seized from bank accounts and cash and a collection of nearly 1,000 baseball cards valued at more than $31,000, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott said in a news release.
He faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison for the mail and wire fraud charges and 10 years maximum for money laundering. He also faces a $250,000 fine.
DePiano, a former Clovis High football player, was arrested in Las Vegas in July 2017.
According to court documents, DePiano operated a Ponzi scheme from February 2010 through June 2017 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. He was 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.
Prosecutors at the time said 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.
DePiano is scheduled to be sentenced May 29 by U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd.