Women Sentenced, Fined in Land Fraud Scheme

Culminating what prosecutors called one of the worst land fraud schemes in recent memory, two Palmdale women were sentenced Wednesday to state prison and fined more $1 million for selling unsubdivided land to unwitting Filipino buyers.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles E. Horan sentenced Carolina Acio Paredes, 65, to 11 years in state prison and ordered her to pay $1.4 million for defrauding more than 60 investors between 1989 and 1998.

Her daughter-in-law, Nenita Sarmiento Paredes, was ordered to spend five years and 8 months behind bars and pay $300,000.

Seven of the Paredes' victims flew in from as far as Hawaii and Guam to testify at the sentencing hearing.

Many told of losing retirement, life savings or children's college funds after investing with the defendants.

"The victims thought they were getting a lot in a subdivision where they could build a dream home," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Victor Minjares. "But they ended up owning an interest in virtually worthless property with a bunch of other people they had never met."

The California Department of Real Estate has estimated that Paredes and her daughter-in-law defrauded more than 200 victims of as much as $4 million.

In January, Carolina Paredes pleaded no contest to 10 felony counts of grand theft and the illegal sale of unsubdivided land. Her daughter-in-law entered the same plea to six counts.

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