California Agent Pleads to Investment Scam

October 1, 2009

A Southern California insurance salesman accused of blowing investors’ money on sports cars, a mistress and real estate has pleaded guilty to federal fraud and money-laundering charges.

James R. Halstead entered the plea Monday and agreed to make restitution to his victims.

The 62-year-old will be sentenced in January and faces a maximum of 60 years in prison.

Halstead was also charged in April 2008 with drugging Olympic ice skater Oksana Grishuk at a dinner meeting, but prosecutors dropped the charges.

Halstead’s alleged partner in the financial scam struck a plea deal last year and is free on bail while awaiting sentencing.

The state’s Department of Insurance had earlier revoked Halstead’s license, in October. The state has the authority to revoke an agent’s license if that agent has been convicted of a felony. Halstead had pleaded guilty to five felony charges in 1998, after being charged with running an investment scam to sell crude oil.

In this case, Halstead and his partner, Irvine securities lawyer, Jeanne M. Rowzee, took in about $22 million from duped investors, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The two told investors they were putting the money into securities known as private investment in public equity. They claimed investors could earn returns as high as 40% in just three months.

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