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Santa Clarita man sentenced more than 6 years for securities fraud

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A Santa Clarita man was sentenced Monday to 77 months in federal prison for defrauding investors out of more than $1.7 million.

Matthew Skinner, 45, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson, who also ordered him to pay about $1.74 million in restitution, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Skinner pleaded guilty in Los Angeles in June to one federal count of securities fraud.

In 2014, he founded a company called Empire West Equity Inc. and later established Simple Growth LLC. Using social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube to promote himself, he falsely claimed to be an experienced and successful real estate investor with more than $200 million in deals under his belt, according to court documents.

After Empire West experienced financial troubles and Skinner was unable to pay his staff and investors, he established Simple Growth in 2018 and falsely told investors who purchased Simple Growth coupon bonds “that their money would be used to purchase real estate that (Skinner) and Empire West would develop and resell at a profit,” according to his plea agreement filed in federal court.

Skinner admitted that he did not intend to purchase, develop or resell real estate, and that he instead used investor funds to pay older investors, his employees and himself.

He “used investor funds from those entities and accounts to pay for personal trips, his mortgage, his utility bills, cosmetic surgery, and alimony payments to his ex-wife,” Skinner acknowledged in the plea agreement.

Simple Growth raised $1,744,946 from more than 20 investors — none of whom received any of their money back.

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