Huntington Park man bilked Spanish-speaking investors, federal jury finds

A Huntington Park man who targeted Spanish-speaking investors with promises of big annual returns starting in 2006 has been found guilty of bilking more than 2,000 victims out of more than $62 million.

Milton Retana, a Salvadoran citizen, was convicted Tuesday by a federal jury in Los Angeles on six counts of mail fraud and one count of making false statements to investigators.

Retana, 46, faces up to 125 years in federal prison. He is to be sentenced April 26.

“There are a lot of these Ponzi schemes going on right now, with a particularly high number of them happening in East Los Angeles targeting Spanish-speaking people,” said Jim Bowman, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles.


Retana’s lawyer, William S. Harris of South Pasadena, said Wednesday that his client was an earnest businessman who never intended to defraud anyone. He said he planned to appeal the verdict.

“Mr. Retana was rather disorganized and unsophisticated as a businessman,” Harris said. “He had very primitive accounting methods -- practically nonexistent. But he was not living a lavish lifestyle as is the trademark of any mastermind behind a Ponzi scheme.”

The charges against Retana came after federal postal inspectors found envelopes stuffed with $3 million in cash during an October 2008 raid of Libreria del Exito Mundo, a Spanish-language religious bookstore in Huntington Park, Bowman said. An additional $8 million was seized from Retana’s bank accounts, he said.

The bookstore was owned by Retana’s wife, Lydia Campos, and was next door to Best Diamond Funding Corp., a real estate brokerage and mortgage firm Retana owned, Bowman said. Campos was not been charged with any crimes, he said.