Developer who defrauded condo buyers in Coachella resort scam gets 20 years in prison
A developer who tricked more than 160 potential buyers into giving her at least $26 million in down payments for condos at a Coachella resort she never built was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison.
Ruixue “Serena” Shi, 38, used the stolen money to pay for luxury cars, worldwide travel and a high-fashion wardrobe, court records show.
Most of the buyers were Chinese citizens who thought California real estate was a safe investment, and some of them lost their life savings, prosecutors said.
“It’s about as bad as it gets in the white-collar sphere,” said aide US Atty. Alexander Schwab told U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner.
The judge imposed the maximum prison sentence allowed by law and ordered Shi to pay $35.8 million in restitution to the victims. The total amount of their losses was uncertain, but prosecutors estimated it to be at least $26 million and could have exceeded $40 million.
Before being sentenced, Shi told Klausner that she wanted to withdraw the guilty plea she made last year. Shi said she didn’t understand what she was doing when she admitted to wire fraud.
“I maintain my innocence,” Judge Shi, who was wearing a beige prison uniform with handcuffs and ankle shackles, told Judge Shi on Monday.
Prosecutors had originally asked for just under 16 years in prison, but after Shi tried to renege on his plea deal, they increased their recommendation to 20 years.
The judge agreed that she deserved the maximum because she refused to accept responsibility for the crime.
“There was a disclaimer,” Klausner said.
Shi’s attorney, Bernard J. Rosen, had requested a sentence of just over two years in prison. He argued that 20 years was excessive, telling Klausner that Shi should have faced less time if she had pointed a gun at every investor’s head.
“The government’s position is unreasonable,” Rosen said.
Shi ran a Beijing real estate company, Global House Buyer LLC, with an office in Beverly Hills. His proposed project, Hyde Hotel & Residences Coachella Valley, was designed as a 350-unit “lifestyle resort” that would have been built by a branch of SBE, a Los Angeles company that managed hotels, restaurants and venues. trendy nightlife.
Coachella city officials twice traveled to Beijing for glitzy sales events where Shi promoted the project to investors. His lawyer declined to comment on the sentencing, but prosecutors were satisfied.
“We hope this can provide some modicum of comfort to the many, many victims who have suffered at the hands of this defendant,” Schwab said.
California Daily Newspapers