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Newport Beach man gets 35-year prison sentence for Ponzi scheme that defrauded victims of $13.5 million

Newport Beach man gets 35-year prison sentence for Ponzi scheme that defrauded victims of $13.5 million
Brandon Walter Stewart, 33, pleaded guilty in August to 125 counts of money laundering and counts of burglary and financial elder abuse, among dozens of other charges. (Orange County district attorney's office)

A Newport Beach man has been sentenced to 35 years in state prison after he pleaded guilty to charges in connection with a Ponzi scheme that defrauded victims of about $13.5 million, the Orange County district attorney’s office announced Monday.

Brandon Walter Stewart, 33, was sentenced Friday after pleading guilty Aug. 17 to 125 counts of money laundering and counts of burglary and financial elder abuse, among dozens of other charges.

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Prosecutors said Stewart would mislead investors and then use their money for extravagant personal expenses including spending thousands of dollars in casinos and flying to Las Vegas on a private jet.

From April 2009 to January 2013, prosecutors said, he defrauded four victims — including a 92-year-old relative — of more than $10.6 million by saying their money was going into an investment pool of more than $100 million for stocks, including Facebook and foreign investments.

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To carry out the elaborate Ponzi scheme, Stewart even burglarized the home of two of his victims, prosecutors said.

He also wrote nearly $3 million in checks for accounts that were closed or had insufficient funds, and he failed to file tax returns from 2010 to 2013, prosecutors said.

Newport Beach police investigating the case “noticed large checks from individuals being deposited into the defendant’s accounts and going out to other people,” the district attorney’s office said in a news release.

In addition to the 125 counts of money laundering, Stewart pleaded guilty to 38 counts of check fraud, 22 counts of untrue statements in the purchase or sale of a security, four counts of failing to file a California state tax return, two counts of financial elder abuse and one count of residential burglary.

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