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$62 Million SoCal Ponzi Scheme Alleged

LOS ANGELES (CN) - The owner of Best Diamond Funding, a mortgage broker, ran the place as a Ponzi scheme that took $62 million from more than 2,000 victims, federal prosecutors say. Milton Retana, 43, of Norwalk, advertised in Spanish-language magazines, on the Internet and at weekly "investment seminars."

Retana faces nine counts of fraud. Federal agents busted up the scheme in October in a raid on Best Diamond's office in Huntington Park, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. They also raided the next-door religious bookstore, "Libreria del Exito Mundo" (The Bookstore of World Success), which was owned by Retana's wife.

Agents seized nearly $4 million in cash during the raid, prosecutors said. The FBI also froze $8 million in Best Diamond's and Retana's bank accounts.

If convicted of all counts, Retana, a native of El Salvador, faces up to 165 years in prison.

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