Real estate broker charged with theft

LOMITA - A Lomita real estate broker was arrested Nov. 13 and accused of operating a scheme that defrauded clients out of more than $600,000.Mario Hernandez, 57, was arrested at his home in Harbor City. He is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 18. Authorities say Hernandez falsely told clients he was a certified public accountant and a former employee of the IRS, and prepared their taxes. Between March and December of 2007, Hernandez allegedly convinced three of his tax clients to invest the money in their 401K retirement accounts into his company, OPM Capital Group, and promised to invest their money in a mix of stocks, bonds, mutual funds and real estate. He also reportedly told his clients they would receive annual returns of 10-20 percent, and told two clients he would make their home mortgage payments with the investment proceeds. An investigation by the LAPD revealed that Hernandez spent some of his clients' money on residential construction projects. He also spent "a large portion" of his clients' money on payments to previous "investors" and an attorney, gifts and loans to family members, personal and business expenses including his own life insurance and cell phone bills, office rent, employees' salaries and health plans, office supplies and mortgage payments on a number of different properties. Investigators also learned that the "OPM" acronym in OPM Capital Group stands for "Other People's Money." Clients' funds were depleted by October 2008, and two victims who believed Hernandez was going to make their mortgage payments with investment proceeds lost their home to foreclosure. Anyone with additional information on the case is asked to call Detective Christopher Derry at (562) 233-8204.

********** Published: November 29, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 33