SANTA ANA – Prosecutors have charged a Minnesota man in connection with what they call a $200 million nationwide Ponzi scheme with at least 55 victims in Orange County.
Gerard Frank Cellette, 48, of Anoka County, is charged with 116 felony counts, including 46 counts of selling unregistered securities and 43 counts of money laundering, plus sentencing enhancements and allegations. If convicted, he faces a possible 104 years in prison.
He has been convicted in Minnesota for defrauding victims there and is serving a six-year prison sentence in that case, the O.C. District Attorney’s Office said.
Between 2005 and 2009, more than $150 million of the total Cellette is accused of receiving came from investors in California, most of whom were from Orange County.
Cellette’s Orange County victims allegedly lost more than $21 million in the Ponzi scheme that prosecutors say is the largest to be prosecuted in county history. Nationwide, the loss was more than $53 million, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Cellette spent the stolen money on luxury items including cars, jets, and multiple homes with features such as a go-cart track, bowling alley, and ’50s-style malt shop, the District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
The defendant, who was extradited from Minnesota to Orange County on Monday, carried out crimes without entering California, prosecutors said.
Cellette promised investors returns of up to 15 percent on fake printing projects while he owned and operated Minnesota Print Services Inc. out of his Minnesota home, according to prosecutors.
The release alleges that Cellette operated a Ponzi scheme across the country, including in his home state and in California, Georgia, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii and Illinois.
The scheme unraveled when three Orange County investors became suspicious and confronted Cellette, prosecutors said.
By VIK JOLLY/ THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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