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Tuesday, Sep 26, 2023

Valley Pastor Arrested in Ponzi Scheme

A Chatsworth man was arrested Thursday on charges of running a nearly $4 million Ponzi scheme that targeted Latinos, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Luis Alonso Serna, 61, was the pastor of Zion Living Word Christian Center (formerly Amistad Cristiana) in San Fernando, and he also operated Architects of the Future Investments, a company that purportedly traded in foreign currencies. According to the government’s indictment, Serna claimed to be a successful investor but in fact operated a Ponzi scheme by soliciting funds from investors with false claims that their money would be used to purchase foreign currency. Serna allegedly promised to pay the victims monthly returns of up 20 percent. He allegedly talked more than 70 victims into investing almost $4 million in his company. This case was investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “This is another sad example of greed overcoming honest business practices,” said Bernard Ferguson, chief postal inspector for Los Angeles, in a statement. “Relying on a reputation or relationship is not enough – investors must still verify information, especially if there are claims of outperforming the market.” Serna is charged with two counts of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering. If he is convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each of the four fraud charges and up to 10 years in prison for both money-laundering counts. He was in federal custody and could not be reached personally for comment. No numbers were available for the Architects of the Future Investments company and calls to the Zion Living Word Christian Center were not answered.

Joel Russel
Joel Russel
Joel Russell joined the Los Angeles Business Journal in 2006 as a reporter. He transferred to sister publication San Fernando Valley Business Journal in 2012 as managing editor. Since he assumed the position of editor in 2015, the Business Journal has been recognized four times as the best small-circulation tabloid business publication in the country by the Alliance of Area Business Publishers. Previously, he worked as senior editor at Hispanic Business magazine and editor of Business Mexico.

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