Minn. Ponzi scammer faces SoCal charges

Feb. 5, 2013 at 1:23 PM

SANTA ANA, Calif., Feb. 5 (UPI) -- A convicted Minnesota swindler was charged in California with a $21 million Ponzi scheme that fleeced 55 investors, Orange County prosecutors said Tuesday.

Gerard Cellette, 48, a former Anoka County, Minn., resident, was extradited to California this week to face arraignment Wednesday on 116 felony counts.

The Orange County District Attorney's office said in a written statement Cellette allegedly victimized 55 investors out of $21 million in Orange County alone between 2005 and 2009, making it the largest Ponzi case in county history.

Investors in eight states lost a total of $150 million in the scheme, the statement said.

Cellette is accused of soliciting investments in a phony commercial printing company that he claimed had lucrative contracts with various major corporations. He made promises of 10-15 percent returns on investments and provided falsified contracts to back up his claims.

The money he took in was allegedly spent on luxury cars, trips on private jets and multiple homes, some which were fitted with a bowling alley and 1950s-style soda fountain, the statement said.

Cellette pleaded guilty to Minnesota charges in 2010 and was sentenced to eight years.

The Orange County connection to the alleged scheme dated back to 2005 when Cellette allegedly roped in three California men who made good money on their investments and unwittingly lured in other investors.

The trio, whose names were not released, confronted Cellette in 2009 when their payouts began to slow down dramatically.

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