- Associated Press - Thursday, August 11, 2016

ABERDEEN, Miss. (AP) - A federal judge has sentenced a woman suspected of operating a Ponzi scheme based in Mississippi and California that bilked investors out of more than $2 million.

Chief U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock of the Northern District of Mississippi sentenced 54-year-old Gina Palasini to 6½ years in prison, which she will serve alongside a 10-year state term for felony pretense in Wayne County that involved more than $200,000 in stolen funds.

The Clarion-Ledger reports (https://on.thec-l.com/2b5h56h) Aycock on Wednesday also ordered Palasini to pay full restitution and to undergo three years of supervised release.

“I feel Judge Aycock handed down as fair a sentence as she could in a case like this,” said Josh Bogen, Palasini’s attorney.

In addition to her federal and Wayne County sentences, this year Palasini was sentenced to three years in jail in Sunflower County for a bad check charge and 10 years, with three suspended, for a false pretense charge in Pike County. Palasini will serve the Pike and Wayne County sentences consecutively.

In March, Palasini pleaded guilty to fraud, a federal charge that stemmed from her mailing a victim a withdrawal form and supposed interest payment of about $3,300. The man had given Palasini $250,394 to purchase an annuity, but she invested the funds in nursing homes instead.

After his death, the victim’s sons received supposed interest payments from Palasini until 2012. From that point on, Palasini continued to owe them about $108,000.

That charge represents a sliver of the initial federal charges filed against her. The court dropped 18 counts of fraud and money laundering as part of her plea deal five months ago.

Two years ago, Palasini was arrested in California amid a Clarion-Ledger investigation into a scheme that targeted veterans and senior citizens who paid Palasini to secure investments and Veterans Affairs or Medicaid benefits. According to court records, their money went instead to Palasini, who also funneled it toward other clients’ supposed interest payments.

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Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, https://www.clarionledger.com

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