Irvine lawyer sentenced in $20-million investment fraud

An Irvine securities lawyer who authorities said teamed with an insurance agent to bilk scores of investors out of more than $20 million has been sentenced to seven years in federal prison.

Jeanne Rowzee, 53, and 65-year-old James Halstead, who already is in prison, solicited tens of millions of dollars from individual investors who ran the gamut from wealthy developers to retirees on fixed incomes.

The pair promised to put the money into securities known as private investment in public equity, or PIPEs, which they said would return as much as much as 35% in as little as three months, prosecutors said.

The two had met in the early 1990s, when Rowzee defended Halstead in another criminal investment-fraud case, in which he pleaded guilty and was put on probation, court records show.

Investors in the PIPEs fraud said Rowzee presented herself as an expert securities lawyer, and that Halstead seemed to be an affable and able salesman.

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