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Your weekly ScamWatch

October 31, 2010 |  6:01 am

Burbank Ponzi — A Burbank woman has been sentenced to five years in prison for running a Ponzi scheme that caused investors to lose more than $6 million. Clelia Flores had attracted investors to her company, Maximum Return Investments, by promising to pay 25% return on their money every 45 days. Prosecutors said that instead of investing in real estate and precious metals as promised, Flores threw lavish parties for clients, purchased real estate for herself and made purported “interest” payments to early investors. She pleaded guilty in May to two counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering. In addition to the prison sentence, imposed Oct. 18 by U.S. District Judge Margaret M. Morrow, Flores was ordered to pay $6.1 million restitution to victims.

Tax evasion — A man who sold videos and hosted seminars on using corporations to avoid paying income tax has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for following the same strategy he promoted, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release. Dana Ray Reynolds pleaded guilty in May to two counts of filing false tax returns and for using $400,000 from his corporations to pay personal expenses and failing to report it as income. Before his convictions, Reynolds operated Incorporating You Inc. and Repackaging America Inc.

Identity theft — The Better Business Bureau is encouraging consumers to take precautions to avoid becoming victims of identity theft, which for five consecutive years has been the top complaint to the Federal Trade Commission. Consumers can protect themselves by installing anti-virus software on their computers, receiving financial statements electronically rather than through the mail and shredding paper documents that contain financial information. The BBB encouraged consumers to visit protectyouridnow.org to learn more about identity theft. Advice in Spanish is available at cuidesuidentidad.org.

Hacker attacks — More than half of mid-sized companies — those with 51 to 1,000 employees — have been the targets of attacks to their computer networks in the last year, according to a report by McAfee Inc., a digital security company based in Santa Clara, Calif. McAfee’s findings were based on surveys sent to companies in 13 countries in North America, Europe and Asia. Of the victimized companies, 5% said they had suffered data loss that cost them in excess of $25,000.

 --Stuart Pfeifer

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