One good federal prosecution of an Irvine swindler . . .
. . . deserves another: United States District Judge Andrew J. Guilford in Santa Ana has sentenced Jeanne Rowzee, 53, of Irvine, to 87 months in federal
prison and to pay more than $25 million in restitution.
Her crime: participating in a fraud scheme that took in more than $25
million with bogus promises of huge returns on short-term loans to
Rowzee, who was ordered to begin serving her sentence on June 15, pleaded guilty in
October 2008 to conspiracy and securities fraud, admitting that she
helped bilk victims who thought they were investing in public
investments in private entities (PIPEs) and money market programs.
When the scheme collapsed, around 140 investors suffered more than $20 million in losses.
Rowzee and James Halstead, 65, of Tustin, had promised investors returns
of 25 percent to 35 percent every three to four months, claiming they had never lost money through PIPEs investments. Rowzee also boasted she was an experienced securities attorney who had
previously worked for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
But the money was never invested. Halstead and Rowzee
instead used it to make Ponzi payments to some investors and to
support their lavish lifestyles. Halstead, who was previously sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, bought a Ferrari, a Porsche and a Las Vegas area home with his ill-gotten take.
It all came crashing down when victims reported the fraud to the FBI's Orange County
office. The SEC helped the FBI with the investigation, according to a statement from the bureau.
“Investment scams harm investors large and small, and Ms. Rowzee and her
cohorts bilked scores of investors with empty promises,” says U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. in a statement from his LA office (and doing doube-duty considering his earlier take in the Nickles case). “Rowzee played a key role in this
scheme by promising huge returns on investments and pretending to be an
experienced securities attorney.”