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Ex-Ameriprise Rep Who Defrauded Retirees Gets 14 Years in Prison

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What You Need to Know

  • The ex-Ameriprise rep scammed older clients out of more than $12 million in retirement savings as part of a real estate investment scheme.
  • On July 19, Mata pleaded guilty to 17 felony counts.
  • He also had a lengthy disciplinary history that culminated in his being barred from the industry by the SEC.

A former Ameriprise broker was sentenced on Monday to 14 years in prison for scamming older clients out of more than $12 million from their retirement savings as part of a real estate investment scheme, according to the Department of Justice.

Paul Ricky Mata, 58, of Oceanside, California, was sentenced by District Judge R. Gary Klausner, who also ordered Mata to pay $12.56 million in restitution. Mata was remanded to federal custody after the hearing, DOJ said in a news release.

As of Wednesday afternoon, a sentencing document had yet to be posted on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California’s website.

Ameriprise did not immediately respond to a request for comment about its former broker’s sentencing. Mata had been a rep for the firm from 1988 until 2009, according to his report on FINRA’s BrokerCheck website.

17 Felonies

On July 19, Mata pleaded guilty to 17 felonies: 11 counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, one count of making a false statement in a bankruptcy proceeding, one count of concealing assets in bankruptcy, and one count of making a false oath and accounts in bankruptcy, according to a court document.

From August 2008 to September 2015, Mata caused clients to invest in several of his businesses, including Secured Capital, Logos Real Estate and other ventures, DOJ said.

Mata also made false statements on bankruptcy court documents in October 2016, including that he had not used any business names in the prior eight years, and that he had not filed for bankruptcy protection in the previous eight years. In fact, Mata had previously filed for bankruptcy in June 2010, according to DOJ.

During the bankruptcy proceeding, Mata fraudulently concealed his personal property, including a 2008 Mini Cooper automobile and a 2001 Jeep, from the government and from his creditors, DOJ said.

At a bankruptcy hearing in November 2016, Mata lied when he denied he had transferred anything to family or friends in the previous four years, DOJ alleged. In reality, in October 2016, Mata transferred the Mini Cooper to his daughter and, in August 2016, he transferred his Upland, California, home to his wife, according to DOJ.

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A Long Disciplinary History

Mata failed to disclose his lengthy disciplinary history to his victims, according to DOJ.

That lengthy history included disciplinary actions taken against him by the states of Nevada in 2011 and California in 2014 and 2016 (the latter a permanent bar) and a one-year suspension and $10,000 fine imposed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in 2011, according to his BrokerCheck report.

He was also suspended for three years by the Certified Financial Planner Board related to various acts of misconduct, including the omitting material facts necessary to make other statements not misleading, according to BrokerCheck.

The Securities and Exchange Commission went on to bar him from the industry in 2016 after obtaining a judgment against Mata that enjoined him from violating securities laws and ordered him to pay $11.7 million, according to DOJ.

The SEC had charged Mata with fraud and obtained an asset freeze in 2015 to halt the ongoing real estate investment scheme conducted by him and two business associates in California who were accused of stealing investors’ money while promising them “indestructible wealth.”

The SEC alleged that Mata and the two others stole investor proceeds for their own use and diverted money to unrelated businesses. They allegedly raised over $14 million from more than 100 investors in California and several other states for two unregistered funds purporting to invest in real estate.

Online videos posted to Mata’s website and YouTube channel helped attract investors to attend investment seminars with such titles as “Finances God’s Way” and “Indestructible Wealth,” where they encouraged many retirees to sell their securities holdings and invest in the funds that falsely guaranteed promising returns, the SEC alleged.

The funds never actually made a profit, according to the SEC. They diluted the value of investments of one fund by allowing new investors in despite being questioned by their accountant and attorney about doing so, the SEC alleged.

Mata and the two other people charged their dinners, travel, entertainment and other items on a personal credit card and used investor money to pay off the card balances, which typically exceeded $40,000 a month, according to the SEC.