Chicago-area resi broker orchestrated $23M Ponzi scheme through mortgage scam: feds

Chicago-area resi broker orchestrated $23M Ponzi scheme through mortgage scam: feds

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Federal prosecutors said a west suburban real estate broker orchestrated a $23 million Ponzi scheme, pocketing more than $3 million in investor money for expensive jewelry and exotic vacations.

Michelle Labra of Yorktown was indicted on three counts of wire fraud and one count of making a false statements to authorities in connection with the scheme, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago said Friday.

Prosecutors said Labra owned and operated Labra Group Realtors in Aurora. Through the firm, she promised potential investors returns of more than 14 percent on short-term, high-interest mortgages to borrowers.

More than 25 investors gave Labra more than $23 million from 2009 to 2015, prosecutors said.

Labra, though, never underwrote any loans, prosecutors said. Instead, she paid out $19.6 million in early returns to investors as part of the Ponzi scheme, and used more than $3.3 million of the money on personal expenses including expensive jewelry and vacations to Jamaica, Mexico and Guatemala, prosecutors said.

The 47-year-old lied to investors who began asking where their money and returns were, at one point falsely claiming the IRS had seized the funds, prosecutors said.

She could face up to 65 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

Attempts to reach Labra were unsuccessful. The phone number for Labra Realtors Group has been disconnected.

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