Two Orange County investment "experts" have been convicted of bilking friends and elderly folks out of nearly $10 million in separate Ponzi schemes that funded their lavish lifestyles.
The bigger thief, when it came to funds swindled, is Mark Alan Helsing. The 53-year-old Tustin resident was convicted Monday of stealing $6.9 million from investors in his Ponzi and real estate fraud scheme.
Between May 2004 and June 2007, Helsing defrauded a dozen people as as a broker for "hard money lenders" through his four Orange County based businesses: Sea View Investments, HLHS Financial Services, Inc., Foothill Realty, and Sea View Mortgage. Hard money lenders provide loans to borrowers with funds from private investors rather than banks.
Many of Helsing's private investors were long-time friends, but instead of lending the funds to borrowers, he used small amounts for bogus interest payments and forged documents to hide his deceit. He then embezzled the rest of the money, failing to return the investors' initial principal.
The Tustin Police Department launched an investigation in December 2008 after some of Helsing's victims bounced checks. He was arrested in court on June 12, 2009, after pleading guilty in an unrelated case to six felony counts, including grand theft and check fraud.
On Monday, Helsing pleaded guilty to another 55 felony counts of grand theft, seven felony counts of filing false recorded documents, six felony counts of elder financial exploitation, and sentencing enhancements for white collar crime over $500,000 and excessive taking over $1 million and $1.3 million.
He could get up to 15 years in state prison at his Dec. 2 sentencing in Santa Ana, where his victims will be able to make impact statements to the judge.
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Facing up to 18 years in prison is Hitomi Tsuyuki, who pleaded guilty Friday to 29 felony counts related to his scamming 33 clients--many of them parishoners at his father's church--out of about $2.8 million dollars.
Between 1997 and 2007, Tsuyuki collected investments for tax-free municipal bonds, but he actually pocketed the money so he could buy cars, a golf club membership, his Coto de Caza home and a vacation property in Mammoth Lakes.
Like Helsing, Tsuyuki hid his scam with phony paperwork, but he was undone after investors tried but could not cash out--because there was nothing to cash out.
He is due back in court for a hearing on Oct. 28.