SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A career criminal who ran a massive Ponzi scheme that cheated investors out of their life savings and used the ill-gotten proceeds to buy a $200,000 Bentley, among other things, was sentenced Monday to 30 years in federal prison.
Thanh-Viet "Jeremy" Cao, 30, was also ordered to pay more than $12 million in restitution.
A jury last December found Cao guilty of conspiracy and three counts of wire fraud.
The 360-month sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns is one of the longest white-collar crime sentences in the history of the Southern District of California, prosecutor said.
"Defendant Cao is a financial predator who will stop at nothing to cheat his victims out of their life savings," said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. "He continues to show no remorse for his actions, which destroyed the finances of many innocent and hard-working people.
"When law enforcement and the federal judiciary stepped in to stop his fraud, Cao retaliated by trying to ruin their finances through the filing of false liens," she said. "The sentence in this case demonstrates how dangerous predators like Cao can be."
According to court documents and trial testimony, Cao was a career criminal who both defrauded and threatened his victims with extreme violence while operating the long-term Ponzi scheme.
Cao claimed to be making legitimate investments in real estate, mortgages and certain financial transactions.
In reality, according to prosecutors, Cao had a long history of cheating clients, and was fired from a job in the financial sector for fraud and misconduct.
He used the victims' money to pay for a $200,000 Bentley which he tried to armor, numerous trips to Las Vegas, the remodeling of his parents' home, a $7,000 watch and more than $10,000 in Louis Vuitton luggage, prosecutors said.
In all, Cao cheated about 190 victims out of more than $10 million, according to prosecutors.
Cao was convicted in a separate state case of extortion, making criminal threats and carrying a loaded handgun in a public place.
After the failure of one of his business proposals, Cao repeatedly threatened to torture and kill his business partner and the partner's wife and children, according to sentencing documents.
Cao told the business partner that "the family" had previously chopped up a baby in front of the infant's parents and then killed the mother, and also referenced an assassination and a "fatal car accident" -- all of which he said could befall the business partner if he did not receive his money, according to the government.
Although fire crews appeared to be making major progress Tuesday on the deadly Woolsey Fire in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, with a series of evacuation orders lifted, a large flare-up near Westlake Village served as a reminder that the battle was far from over.
The prosecution is presenting its case on Tuesday against a man accused in the death of an elderly woman.
Six rural school districts as well as two schools in San Diego County's eastern region were closed Tuesday and around 30,000 San Diego Gas & Electric customers were without power because of powerful Santa Ana winds and elevated risk of wildfires.
Sandra Younger, Cedar Fire survivor and author of “The Fire Outside My Window,” knows first-hand how to be ready for emergency evacuations and transform disasters into opportunities.
An event taking place the day before Thanksgiving will help feed between 300 to 500 homeless and low income San Diegans.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials will shut down several lanes of traffic beginning Tuesday morning at the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa ports of entry to install equipment in preparation for the arrival of the migrant caravan, the agency said.
Police on Tuesday were searching for a man suspected of robbing a smoothie bar at gunpoint in Mira Mesa.
Santa Ana winds continue Tuesday, weakening Wednesday through Thursday. Very dry and gusty conditions will continue to bring elevated fire risk through Wednesday.