SAN DIEGO – A new two-part series from the San Diego Union-Tribune is taking a deep dive into San Diego’s largest Ponzi scheme of all time, and the woman at the helm, Gina Champion-Cain.
Greg Moran and Lori Weisberg, Union-Tribune reporters who have followed the case for years, stopped by FOX 5 Tuesday to discuss the series and how the respected business owner managed to pull off a Ponzi scheme for nearly a decade.
A video posted by the San Diego Union-Tribune explains how the woman, previously a well-known and respected real estate developer and restauranteur in the area, defrauded investors by promising a return on a scheme that involved high-interest loans going to businesses looking to acquire their liquor license. Instead of the money going to prospective liquor license holders, Champion-Cain had unrestricted access to the funds and would often use the money to pay off previous investors, cover her own business expenses and even cover her lifestyle costs.
“Well she was, dating back to the 90s, she positioned herself as what she said was a major developer, real estate maven — part of the whole redevelopment of downtown,” Weisberg said. “As time went on she ultimately pivoted around 2011, she got into the restaurant business and quickly we saw her opening restaurant after restaurant.”
At the time that the story broke, prosecutors said that the scheme drew “at least $372 million from over 490 investors.” In May 2021, Champion-Cain was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
A recent settlement between Chicago Title, the escrow company that Champion-Cain used to hold and track incoming investor money, and 130 investors will give back approximately 70% of the losses.
You can watch the full discussion with Moran and Weisberg at the player at the top of this story.