Home / News / Government / Four Arrested Over Real Estate Scheme in California
Print This Post Print This Post

Four Arrested Over Real Estate Scheme in California

Four suspects were arrested and charged with securities fraud, conspiracy and elder abuse for their roles in a Ponzi scheme that cost investors $2.3 million, California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced Friday in a release.


Married couple Philip Lester, 65, and Ellen Lester, 65, surrendered on Thursday in Riverside County, while Susan Laferte, 58, and Jonathan Blinder, 58, were arrested on Thursday in Nevada County.

The arrest declaration alleges that the real estate company Philip served as CEO of, Gold Country Lenders, engaged in theft and fraud-related crimes for more than eight years, according to the release.


Laferte, who is Philip's sister, was the CFO of Gold Country Lenders. Both face charges of 66 felony counts of elder abuse, securities fraud, and conspiracy.

Ellen is being charged with two felony counts of conspiracy and securities fraud, and Blinder faces four felony counts of securities fraud.

According to the release, Gold Country Lenders sold securities on real estate development projects that were promised to yield annual returns of 8 to 12 percent. These investments were supposedly secured by a first or second deed of trust on the property, but instead were never recorded, subordinated to other loans, or diluted by the repackaging and overselling of shares.

The victims also were not made aware of Philip's interest in the projects and of the toxic waste issues surrounding some of the projects.

Many of the victims who bought securities were elderly and knew the defendants for many years.

Some of the funds from investors were used to make interest payments to earlier investors or to fund other projects.

Bail for Philip and Laferte is set at $600,000 each, and at $50,000 for Ellen. Blinder was released on bail for an amount not disclosed in the release.

About Author: Esther Cho


Check Also

HUD’s Carson Discusses End of AFFH Rule

The Secretary had previously dismissed the AFFH rule as "unworkable and ultimately a waste of time for localities to comply with." Here's what he had to say during a recent interview.


Featuring daily updates on foreclosure, REO, and the secondary market, DS News has the timely and relevant content you need to stay at the top of your game. Get each day’s most important default servicing news and market information delivered directly to your inbox, complimentary, when you subscribe.