Las Vegas, Nevada - A former loan officer from Henderson, Nevada, who convinced at least 16 victims to give him money for a high-yield investment scheme involving the foreign currency exchange market was sentenced today to six-and-a-half years in prison, five years of supervised release, and ordered to pay over $830,000 in restitution for his guilty pleas to federal fraud and money laundering charges, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.
Kamalu Gonzales, 47, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro and was permitted to self-report to federal prison by April 17, 2014. Gonzales pleaded guilty in August 2013 to two counts of mail fraud, six counts of wire fraud, and two counts of money laundering.
“Prosecuting persons who commit financial fraud crimes is a top priority of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nevada,” said U.S. Attorney Bogden. “Many of these persons target elderly and other vulnerable victims. If someone promises you an investment opportunity with unusually high rates of return, it is likely that the opportunity is fraudulent and that you will lose your money.”
During 2007, Gonzales worked as a loan officer for Meridias Capital in Henderson. Gonzales helped persons refinance their homes and placed false information in the loan applications so the individuals could obtain refinancing and cash to which they would not have otherwise been entitled. Gonzales also told individuals that he was a successful investor and trader in the foreign currency exchange market. Gonzales recruited individuals to invest with him in the market, telling them that they could earn high rates of return on their investments in a short period of time. Some of the victims wired money to Gonzales, and others borrowed money from their retirement funds or lines of credit. Gonzales also convinced some of the persons who refinanced their houses to give him some of the cash they received from refinancing for his investment fraud scheme. None of the victims agreed to pay Gonzales any commissions or fees or agreed that he could use their investments for personal or business expenses or to pay other investors.
In order to continue the scheme and to keep victims from discovering the crime, Gonzales lied to the victims repeatedly and told them their investments were doing well. As a result of the lies, some victims gave Gonzales more money to invest. Gonzales also made payments to some of the victims using money he received from other victims.
Gonzales received approximately $1 million total from at least 16 victims in 2007 and 2008. Gonzales did not invest the victims’ funds as promised and diverted approximately $410,000 for his own personal purposes.
The case was investigated by the FBI, IRS-Criminal Investigation, and the Henderson Police Department and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kathryn C. Newman and Kimberly M. Frayn.
Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF), which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys' offices and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory, and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state, and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions, and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.