Santa Ana, California - A former Orange County real estate investor was sentenced Tuesday by United States District Judge David O. Carter to 78 months in prison for defrauding 70 investors out of more than $12 million.

Francisco Plascencia Esparza, 46, formerly of Coto De Caza now residing in Cumming, Georgia, solicited millions of dollars from investors in Southern California, promising to use the money to acquire real estate and pay a fixed rate of return on their investments.

Esparza pleaded guilty in September to wire fraud, admitting that he had lured investors over a seven-year period by falsely claiming that he had run successful businesses and investment ventures when, in fact, his prior business ventures failed. Esparza engaged in a Ponzi scheme, using funds from new victims to pay off prior investors. Esparza also admitted using investor money for personal purposes, including purchasing a home, luxury cars, a wedding, and vacations.

Judge Carter found that dozens of victims suffered substantial financial harm from the fraud, including for some, the loss of their 401k retirement accounts and the inability to retire as planned, if at all.

Judge Carter ordered Esparza to pay $12.6 million in restitution.

The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Daniel S. Lim and Joseph T. McNally of the Santa Ana Branch Office.