A group of PTA moms from Armstrong Elementary School in Diamond Bar, California have been charged with 22 counts of grand theft and securities fraud, accused of manufacturing a ponzi scheme that earned them $14 million.
Prosecutors allege that, during school events, the women convinced more than 30 people to invest money in their company, which they claimed had exclusive rights to distribute dairy products at Disney properties in Southern California.
Between June 2008 and August 2010, PTA moms Maricela Barajas, Juliana Celeste Menefee, and Eva Perez allegedly concocted a scheme in which they told community members that they had a distribution deal with Alta Dena Dairy, reports ABC News.
With promises of high returns, they were able to attract dozens of investors who gave up their life savings and took out second mortgages. But when they couldn't pay up, ABC News reports that investors became suspicious.
Though they've returned about $10 million, CBS reports that the women spent millions on cars, vacations and gambling.
If convicted, the government and victims can request the seizure of any purchases for the purposes of restitution.
There's probably some joke about how you shouldn't trust PTA moms, but the truth is that you shouldn't trust anyone prior to a thorough background check.
At least in business.
PTA moms may seem innocuous, but their community spirit is not a substitute for due diligence. Criminals come in many packages, and it is your job to protect yourself by thoroughly investigating business plans, finances, and contracts when someone requests an investment.
- PTA moms who allegedly ran Ponzi scheme charged with multiple felonies (Los Angeles Times)
- Securities Fraud (FindLaw)
- Restitution (FindLaw)
- What is a Ponzi Scheme? (FindLaw's Common Law)