PTA Moms Busted in $14M Ponzi Scheme

LA County women scammed other parents out of life savings
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 6, 2011 8:07 AM CDT
41-year-old Maricela Barajas has been charged with grand theft and securities fraud.   (Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department)
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(Newser) – Look out, Bernie Madoff: A trio of mothers in a well-to-do suburb of Los Angeles have been charged with scamming other parents out of millions. Police say the women, all members of an elementary school PTA, ran a $14 million Ponzi scheme by simply winning the trust of victims at school events and social functions, the Pasadena Star-News reports.

Prosecutors say the suspects, who promised investors very high rates of return, paid out $10 million to keep new investors coming in and kept around $4 million for themselves. "Like all ponzi or pyramid schemes, they ran out of people to provide an infusion of cash to keep things going and they collapse(d)," an LA County Sheriff's spokesman tells the LA Times. Investigators say many of the 40-plus victims lost their life savings. The moms have been charged with multiple counts of grand theft and securities fraud and face up to 20 years each in prison if convicted.

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