Investment scammer sentenced to prison

Prosecutors say a Santa Cruz woman who cheated investors out of more than $3 million in a real estate and mortgage assistance fraud scheme has been sentenced to a little more than three years in prison.

Federal prosecutors say Tara Denise Bonelli was sentenced to 37 months and ordered to pay restitution after admitting that between May of 2006 and October of 2008 she cheated investors by taking their money and telling them that she would be investing their funds in distressed properties.

In some instances, prosecutors say Bonelli promised returns of up to 1,000 percent.

But as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, the 33-year-old Bonelli admitted that she used some of her clients’ money for personal expenses instead of investing the funds.

Bonelli pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud and agreed to pay restitution to her victims. She also avoided the maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

How much Bonelli will have to pay in restitution will be determined when she returns to federal court in August.