REDDING, Calif. — A man accused of cheating North Coast residents out of hundreds of millions of dollars in what prosecutors characterized as one of the largest real estate Ponzi schemes in state history has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
A Shasta County Superior Court judge issued the sentence against Gary Armitage, 62, on April 8, as some of his victims spoke out against him in court.
"All of your words and promises turned out to be lies," said Ron Johnson, of Auburn, a retired insurance company employee. "Not only did you steal the money we worked for our entire lives to save, you destroyed our ability to trust in others and ourselves."
Johnson said Armitage persuaded him and his wife, Sandy, to refinance their home and sell a rental property to invest more money with him. The couple lost $1.2 million, according to court records.
In all, prosecutors said Armitrage and two accomplices — James Koenig, of Redding, and Jeffrey Guidi, of Santa Rosa — bilked 2,000 investors out of $200 million. Many of the victims were retirees who lost much of their life savings.
Armitage pleaded no contest in January, four years after his arrest, to four felony counts of conspiracy and securities fraud. Koenig went on trial in January and has pleaded not guilty. Guidi has also pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
Prosecutors said the three men sold real estate investments, promising low-risk returns. But many of the projects faltered or were never finished. Still, the men continued to raise money from investors, using it to pay off earlier investors, according to prosecutors.
The more recent investors were allegedly not told of problems arising in the team's investment portfolio, nor of Koenig's 1986 federal fraud conviction and subsequent probation violations.
The men were arrested after a 17-month investigation.