Feds Arrest Inland Empire Man on Wire Fraud Charge that His $10 Million Ponzi Scheme Targeted Elderly and Retired People

             The feds arrested Paul Horton Smith Sr., 56, a Riverside County man on a federal criminal complaint alleging he swindled dozens of his clients, many of them elderly retirees, in a long-running Ponzi scheme that took in more than $10 million in victim-investor money.  He faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

            The feds alleges that starting in 2013, Smith offered 75 clients an investment he called “Northstar,” which he said was a private annuity contract that was a safe alternative to the stock market and provided a generous annual rate of return of between 5 percent and 6 percent. Instead, Smith used his victim investors’ money as lulling payments to earlier investors.Smith, who advertised himself on his website as a chartered senior financial planner, owns several Riverside businesses including Planning Services, Inc. and Northstar Communications LLC. He also held fee seminars via Planning Services in the Riverside area where he discussed estate planning, trust creation to protect assets, and other financial matters. One 70-year-old woman who knew from their mutual church association in the 1990s, sold a home in Arizona in August 2016 and wrote a $175,000 check to Northstar for investment. Instead of investing her money, Smith transferred her funds to other investors and he used her money to pay off the other investors’ tax bills with the IRS and the Franchise Tax Board. In November 2019, an 86-year-old woman who had known Smith for many years, invested $169,126 in Northstar from the sale of a rental property. The next day, Smith took $134,863 of the victim’s money to pay off another victim investor. The bank records show that the victims transferred more than $10 million to Smith’s business entities since 2013. Evidence shows that his scheme goes back to the early 2000s. .

            A complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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