A Long Beach tax preparer pleaded guilty Wednesday to embezzling more than $40 million over the span of two decades from clients who believed she was investing their funds in low-risk securities.

Carol Ann Pedersen, 65, faces sentencing July 10 on the single wire fraud count, which carries a possible sentence of up to 20 years behind bars. However, because of her “extraordinary efforts” to accept responsibility at the start of the investigation in September 2017 and full cooperation with authorities, she is expected to receive far less prison time, prosecutors indicated in court papers.

As part of her plea agreement, Pedersen is expected to be ordered to pay restitution of about $27.5 million to her victims.

Pedersen’s scheme involved dozens of victims and operated for 21 years, from 1996 to 2017. A certified public accountant but not a licensed broker or investment adviser, Pedersen falsely told victims she was investing their funds in low-risk securities with returns available after a specified amount of time, prosecutors said.

Accoridng to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, one victim, who was not named in court documents, lost at least $12.8 million.

Pedersen used some of the victims’ money to make distribution payments to others in order to keep the Ponzi scheme running, falsely telling so-called clients they were receiving returns on investments she had made for them, prosecutors said. Victims’ funds were also used by Pedersen to pay her credit card bills, establish trust accounts for family members and to purchase real estate, according to prosecutors.

As part of the scheme, Pedersen — who raked in between $3 million and $5 million for herself — created false documentation, including purported account statements, online virtual portfolios and other records which were sent to victims.

Also Wednesday, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged Pedersen with violating various anti-fraud provisions of securities law. Pedersen has agreed to the entry of a final judgment in which she consents to injunctive relief and to be liable for $2.7 million, which will be covered by the restitution order anticipated at her sentencing.

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