A one-time Inland Empire financial adviser with a history of violating securities laws was sentenced Monday to 14 years behind bars and ordered to pay more than $12.5 million in restitution for running a real estate fraud scheme that conned victims into investing in his businesses and then spending their money on himself.

Paul Ricky Mata, 58, of Oceanside, was ordered into federal custody immediately following the hearing, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

He pleaded guilty in July to over a dozen federal counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and making false statements in a bankruptcy proceeding.

Mata committed the offenses while based in Upland, serving more than 100 clients in the Inland Empire and elsewhere between August 2008 and September 2015, according to documents filed in Los Angeles federal court.

“It was not simply that (Mata) was an investment advisor to his victims,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “It was that, for many of them, he met them through church. He prayed with them, professed to share values and beliefs with them, and he acted like they were his friends. Moreover, many of his victims are currently retired, and/or were in the process of retiring when (Mata) advised them to enter into his risky investments based on false pretenses.”

Mata was previously the defendant in a civil action initiated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which the government said resulted in an $11.74 million judgment against him.

According to the indictment, Mata operated a number of ventures, including Secured Capital and Logos Real Estate, and he attracted investors with the promise of gaining 5% to 10% returns on their money by putting funds in “government-backed tax liens,” “asset-backed deed certificates” and distressed real estate.

Most of the investments placed under Mata’s management after 2011 returned nothing and instead went into his pocket, paying for a down payment on his home, covering personal loans and replenishing his private bank accounts, prosecutors said.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the defendant failed to disclose to investors that he was terminated by Ameriprise Financial Services Inc. in 2009 for violating company policies and had been named in disciplinary actions filed by financial regulators in California and Nevada. The Ameriprise transgressions resulted in a suspension of his financial adviser license by the independent Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, prosecutors said.

In bankruptcy proceedings following the 2015 SEC civil suit, Mata failed to disclose assets, including a 2008 Mini Cooper and a 2001 Jeep Cherokee, federal prosecutors said.

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