National City Councilman Luis Natividad was one of 28 victims of a statewide scam that targeted mostly seniors.
Natividad said he was scammed out of his $92,000 retirement fund that he had earned with the city of San Diego.
Richard Provencio, 64, Carmen Provencio, 60, Carl Battie, 57, and Julio Gomez, 43, are charged in a 105-count criminal complaint filed in San Diego Superior Court that accuses them of securities fraud, elder financial abuse, burglary and conspiracy.
Natividad, 71, first met Gomez at the suggestion of his daughter, who had met Gomez’s wife at a dinner and learned Gomez was a licensed insurance agent.
“He came over (to Natividad’s house) and he was the nicest guy you’ll ever meet,” he said. “The first time I met him he was a nice guy, real friendly, really helpful.”
The two men eventually formed a bond, with Gomez making himself a frequent visitor.
Then one day Natividad said Gomez wanted to help him pay off his house by reversing his mortgage.
Shortly after, Gomez asked Natividad if he could take his retirement money and invest it into the companies that he was a part of with the Provencios.
The two companies were Masters of Retirement and American Equity Direct.
Both companies took part in offering fake investment returns, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Natividad emptied out his retirement account and gave funds to Gomez, believing the money would be invested.
Initially Natividad was receiving a $650 monthly check, which was the interest that was earned on Natividad’s money. But after a while the checks stopped coming.
Natividad said when he tried to contact Gomez to ask for all of his money back because he no longer wanted to invest in the companies, Gomez was hard to get a hold of and would give Natividad the run-around.
“I was so angry,” he said. “That was my life savings.”
Natividad said he reported the case to the National City Police Department, which found out that the four suspects were being investigated by the California Department of Insurance.
Tom Di Zinno, investigator for the NCPD, said financial scams targeted at seniors occur daily.
“Elderly people are subjects of financial scams because they’re given one story verbally, but given a document to sign that has different arrangements from what they were told,” he said.
When NCPD found out about the scam they reported the case to the District Attorney’s Office, Di Zinno said.
Natividad said he was able to recoup only $2,800 of his $92,000 because the state and the District Attorney’s Office were only able to recover a certain amount of money that had to be split between the 28 victims.
Natividad said he would still have his money today if he would have done his due diligence.
If convicted, the Provencios and Battie face 42 years in prison while Gomez is facing a 25-year sentence. A status conference is scheduled for Sept. 5.