Woman pleads guilty in Christian rock Ponzi scheme
A Downey woman pleaded guilty Monday to a federal wire fraud charge and scheming to collect $1 million from victims who believed their money was going toward real estate investments and Christian rock concerts.
Lauren Baumann, 43, solicited loans from investors for her business, Stewardship Estates LLC, telling them that the money would be used to stage Christian "battle of the band" events that would generate profits from ticket sales. She also said the money would be used to buy houses, fix them up and sell them for a profit.
In fact, the vast majority of the money went to other investors or personal expenses, including $10,000 a month Baumann paid in rent on a historic mansion in Downey and private school tuition for her children, prosecutors said.
Baumann did not disclose to her investors that she had been convicted of securities fraud in Texas in 1999. More than two dozen investors suffered losses totaling nearly $560,000.
A sentencing hearing is set for Dec. 12. The maximum sentence for wire fraud is 20 years in prison, but under the terms of the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend a lower sentence.
-- Abby Sewell