Newport Beach Man Receives 35-Year Prison Sentence for Ponzi Scheme Defrauding Victims of $13.5 Million

Brandon Walter Stewart, 33, is seen in a photo released by the Orange County DA's office on Nov. 19, 2018.

Brandon Walter Stewart, 33, is seen in a photo released by the Orange County DA's office on Nov. 19, 2018.

A Newport Beach man has been sentenced to 35 years in state prison after he pleaded guilty to charges in connection with a Ponzi scheme that defrauded $10.5 million from victims and nearly $3 million from banks, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office announced Monday.

Brandon Walton Stewart, 33, was sentenced Friday after pleading guilty on Aug. 17 to 125 counts of money laundering and counts of burglary and financial elder abuse, among dozens of other charges.

He had been arrested with the assistance of U.S. Marshals on Oct. 8, 2014, in Dallas, Texas, before he was arraigned in an Orange County courtroom.

According to prosecutors, Stewart would mislead investors and then use their money for extravagant personal expenses from spending thousands in casinos to going on flights to Las Vegas on a private jet, according to prosecutors.

From April 2009 to January 2013, he defrauded his victims of more than $10.6 million, prosecutors said. He would lie to investors — including a 92-year-old relative of his — saying their money was going into an investment pool of more than $100 million for stocks, including Facebook and foreign investments.

To carry out the elaborate Ponzi scheme, Stewart even burglarized the home of two of his victims, prosecutors said.

He also wrote nearly $3 million in checks for accounts that were closed or didn’t have enough funds and failed to file tax returns from 2010 to 2013, prosecutors said.

Newport Beach police investigating the case “noticed large checks from individuals being deposited into the defendant’s accounts and going out to other people,” the DA’s office said in a news release.

In addition to more than 100 counts of money laundering, Stewart also pleaded guilty to 38 counts of writing no-sufficient funds, 22 counts of untrue statements in purchase or sale of a security, four counts of failing to file a California state tax return, two counts of financial elder abuse and one count of residential burglary.

The DA’s office said some of the sentencing enhancements filed against Stewart include aggravated white collar crime in excess of $500,000, property damage over $3.2 million and money laundering in excess of $2.5 million.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the defendant’s middle name, and it gave the incorrect year for when the offenses began. The story has been updated.