Orange County Attorney Guilty in $5 Million Ponzi Scheme Files For Bankruptcy

Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse: File bankruptcy and get sentenced to prison here (Photo by R. Scott Moxley)

An Orange County attorney who helped con more than $5 million from duped investors and awaits a sentencing hearing is seeking bankruptcy inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana.

In his Chapter 7 filing, Irvine’s Bruce Haglund claims he owns assets worth between $1 and $1o million but owes between $10 million and $50 million, according to court records. 

Federal prosecutors say that from at least 2009 to 2012 Haglund and his co-conspirators–Francis Wilde III, Steven Woods and Mark Gelazela–operated a Ponzi scheme by deceitfully promising investors exorbitantly high-yield rates of return, secretly spending the money on themselves and using newer collected funds to make symbolic payouts that temporarily gave the false impression of an aboveboard arrangement.   

When the swindlers didn’t back up their promises, they gave “fictitious and misleading explanations as to why the victims’ payments were delayed,” according to a 2015 federal grand jury indictment. 

The scam cheated at least 18 individuals from “California to Colorado, Alabama to Florida, Pennsylvania and beyond,” law enforcement investigators determined. 

For their wire-fraud crimes, Wilde received a sentence of 51 months in prison plus a $6.1 million restitution order; Woods got a year in prison plus a $1 million restitution order; and Gelazela, who lost a trial on the charges, must spend 41 months in prison plus pay a $5.1 million restitution order. 

Haglund, who has lived in a $1.6 million Irvine home, won postponement of his sentencing since 2016, largely because he has been assisting his seriously ill wife.

U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter last week ordered him to appear for punishment on Sept. 10.

Haglund’s legal counsel claims his client didn’t realize he was participating in financial crimes  but now regrets his conduct.

R. Scott Moxley’s award-winning investigative journalism has touched nerves for two decades. An angry congressman threatened to break Moxley’s knee caps. A dirty sheriff promised his critical reporting was irrelevant and then landed in prison. The U.S. House of Representatives debated his work. Federal prosecutors credited his stories for the arrest of a doctor who sold fake medicine to dying patients. Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.

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