PTA Scam artists Charged in California

Jul 8, 2011, 07:38 by R.E. Christian

Three Southern California mothers were charged Wednesday with allegedly using their PTA connections to run a million-dollar Ponzi investment scam.

Los Angeles County prosecutors have accused Maricela Barajas, 41, Juliana Celeste Menefee, 50, and Eva Perez, 51, of ripping off more than 40 people, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The three women are suspected of luring in victims they met while attending functions and events at Armstrong Elementary School in Diamond Bar where they had been PTA members, the newspaper said. Each faces 22 felony counts of grand theft of personal property and securities fraud, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Authorities allege the women told people their money would be invested in credible companies that would get up to 100 percent returns, authorities said. The newspaper said one person alone invested $208,000.

Sheriff's Capt. Mike Parker called the victims "good, hard-working people" who saw the investment deal as an "opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families."

Barajas and Menefee, both of Diamond Bar, were arrested Tuesday at their homes, while Perez is serving an 11-year state prison sentence after pleading guilty in San Bernardino County court last year in the same scheme.

Source: UPI