SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) --A Minnesota man was sentenced for the largest Ponzi scheme in Orange County history, scamming millions of dollars from 60 investors without even setting foot in the county.
Gerard Cellette, 51, pleaded guilty to 455 felony counts and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. He has already served eight years in prison in Minnesota for a similar scheme there.
Prosecutors said Cellette told Orange County investors he had printing deals with major companies such as Target and needed funding for the projects.
In some cases, he offered returns to investors of 10 percent in just 90 days.
But the returns were not coming from business profits. Instead, he was simply using money from new investors to pay off previous ones, prosecutors said, then using some of the new funds for himself.
Overall, the scheme involved some $150 million invested from Orange County and about $250 million nationwide, prosecutors said. The losses to investors were about $21 million in Orange County and about $54 million nationwide.
The money rolled in for several years. Prosecutors said Cellette lived the high life in Minnesota, buying properties that had lakes, go-cart tracks, even bowling alleys.
He also got his investors to bring in additional unwitting people to the scheme.
The court fined Cellete more than $40 million and ordered him to pay more than $20 million restitution, although prosecutors said he doesn't have the means now to pay those amounts.
Impact statements from some of the victims were read in court: "I really do feel bad for your family. For you I have no remorse. You nearly ruined my life, my wife's life, my son's life."
Cellette's defense attorney said he does have concern for his victims and his own family and that was why he took the plea deal - to spare others the trial.
If convicted at trial, he faced a potential sentence up to 300 years.