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Four charged in $3 million investment scam

Four people have been charged by the San Diego County district attorney's office with swindling 28 California investors, many of them senior citizens, out of more than $3 million through phony investment contracts.

The 105-count criminal complaint charges Richard Provencio, 64, Carmen Provencio, 60, Julio Gomez, 43, and Carl Battie Hampton, 57, with multiple counts of securities fraud, elder fraud, residential burglary, and perjury.

The complaint addresses their fraudulent dealings through companies called Masters of Retirement and American Equity Direct. The case stems from the defendants’ marketing and selling a fraudulent investment product to 28 victims.

“The defendants in this case were ruthless and heartless in the way they scammed their victims out of millions of dollars in phony investments,” San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said. "We’re also encouraging any other potential victims to come forward.”

Richard Provencio and his wife, Carmen, who ran the investment companies, were arrested on $750,000 warrants Tuesday, May 6, in Los Angeles and Orange counties, respectively. Investment salesman Gomez was arrested Monday, May 5, in San Diego on a $750,000 warrant. Hampton was arrested on Thursday, May 8, in Georgia.

Arraignment dates for Hampton and the Provencios will be set after they are booked into jail in San Diego. Gomez was arraigned on May 7. He remains in custody on $750,000 bail. He will next be in court on May 12.

If convicted of all charges, Gomez faces up to 25 years in state prison. The remaining defendants face a maximum of 42 years.

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