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Southern California real estate investor convicted in $169 million fraud scheme


SANTA ANA, California — A Southern California real estate investor has been convicted of a fraud scheme that cost investors as much as $169 million.

Michael Stewart was convicted Friday of 11 mail fraud counts. He could face up to 220 years in federal prison.

The 68-year-old San Clemente man owned Pacific Property Assets, which bought, rented, refinanced and resold apartment buildings in Southern California and Arizona.

Prosecutors says rising real estate values kept the firm afloat for a decade until 2007, when the market began to slow and credit became scarce.

Authorities say to cover its debts, the company raised money from new investors — many retirees — to pay off the old ones.

Eventually, the company went bankrupt.

Co-owner John Packard pleaded guilty to mail fraud last year and awaits sentencing.

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