Victims relieved, anxious for things to move forward.
With dozens of investors and property owners in distress, the recent raid of Gold Credit Investments and the home of its owner, Celia Gallardo, prompted relief and some strong feelings from Santa Clarita victims.
“I’m happy and glad,” said a victim, who bought
Florida properties from Gallardo as a participant in the Gold Credit Investment program and is owed $350,000 for money allegedly skimmed off the top of the loans. “Whatever they (investigators) are going to find, I hope they find fast. I just want to see her go to prison for what she did. I’m glad this happened because now more people will come forward and those of us who did won’t feel so isolated.”
Another local investor who is owed nearly half a million dollars by Gallardo and requested anonymity, said that they know of several people in the community who will lose their homes because “there is no out.”
“Foreclosing, which is going to happen, is going to screw me up for 7 or 8 years, but I don’t have a choice,” they said. “I want to see her walk away in shackles. There are other people who won’t be able to go home. No matter if I ever get a cent back, I want to see her in prison.”
Detective David Lingscheit, the lead investigator on the case, said that he's recieved calls from several victims of Gallardo's, including buyers, investors, past and current employees since KHTS originally broke the story.
"More and more people are coming out of the woodwork," he commented.
Press clippings paint Gallardo as an entrepreneur and model for young women in business. She is listed as a mentor at Bowman High; has won Ambassador of the Year for the SCV Chamber of Commerce, and the California Jaycees named Celia an Outstanding Young Californian in 2007. She was nominated by the Santa Clarita Valley Chapter. She co-founded the chamber’s Hispanic Business Committee and chaired the Hispanic Business Expo in 2006.
Gallardo is also listed as a founder or president of several businesses in the Santa Clarita valley, including Women’s Personal and Financial Empowerment Seminars, Quick Appraisals, Quick Notary (which was suspended by the Franchise Tax Board in January 2006), Gold Feather Realty, Inc. (which was suspended by the California Franchise Tax Board in March 2008), Dare To Dream Marketing, CSC Lawyers Incorporating Services and is a part owner of To Go Services, LLC, a restaurant delivery service. In the
Valley , she is listed as the president of eppraisals, Gallardo Property Management (which shows a “Desist and Refrain” order from the California Department of Real Estate as of May 2003) and Casa Bella Mortgage, Inc.
While several of her companies websites claim she is a Realtor and a real estate broker, handouts for Gold Credit Investments carry a tiny disclaimer at the bottom of the page that says Gallardo is not a Realtor or broker, but merely a “facilitator.”
She also promised charities donations if they sent representatives to her motivational seminars – $250 per group for up to 20 groups. Judy Penman, Board President for Circle of Hope, attended a July seminar with several other charities, including representatives from Single Mothers Outreach and Hunger Defense Fund, said the cancer support group hasn’t seen a single dime from Gallardo.
“I waited two weeks, like they said, and called,” Penman said. “The first time they said she (Gallardo) wasn’t there, then the next time I called, it rang and rang and rang and now there’s nothing.”
An attempt to reach Gallardo for comment was unsuccessful, as phones at Gold Credit Investments have been disconnected.
Some of the investors have recovered some of their money, but are on the hook for taxes, as the money initially came from 401K accounts. Others took out second mortgages to participate in Gold Credit Investment programs that promised instant equity from a down payment made by GCI, a 10 to 15 percent return at closing to cover closing costs, impounds and incentives and encouraged buyers to purchase at least five properties at a time so “all transactions to close simultaneously,” which seldom happened, according to several victims.
This story is continuing to unfold and KHTS plans to follow the case as it develops. Next week, we’ll take you behind the scenes to illustrate how these Santa Clarita victims got enticed into a deal that was too good to be true.
Read other articles from this series of special reports: