POMONA - Two Diamond Bar women took a deal Monday, pleaded no contest to seven counts of securities fraud and were sentenced to three years in prison for fleecing seven people out of $590,000 in an investment scam involving milk and an elementary school PTA.

Authorities said Diamond Bar residents Maricela Barajas, 42, and Juliana Menefee, 51, along with ringleader Eva Perez, 52, of Chino told investors they had exclusive rights to sell Alta Dena Dairy products at Disneyland.

They didn't.

More than 30 people from Los Angeles County invested between $2,000 to $100,000 each and were promised extraordinary rates of return, Deputy District Attorney James Belna said in a statement.

Sheriff's investigators said the women were former members of the PTA at Neil Armstrong Elementary School in Diamond Bar and recruited investors, in part, from PTA meetings.

The scam fleeced victims out of millions, according to detectives.

Though the scheme allegedly involved dozens of victims, Barajas - whose real name is Maricela Torres - Menefee and Perez only pleaded to seven counts of securities fraud.

Perez, who authorities identified as the ringleader, took a plea deal last week and was ordered to repay more than $1 million in restitution.

Jane Robison, spokeswoman for the District Attorney's Office, said Barajas and Menefee will serve their sentences in county jail and will pay about $300,000 each in restitution to their


seven victims.

Menefee and Torres' attorneys couldn't be reached for comment on Monday.

Perez pleaded no contest on April 19 to seven counts of securities fraud and one count of using a device to defraud. She was sentenced to three years in state prison.

She is already serving a 10-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in San Bernardino County court in 2010 to a similar scheme. Her new sentence will be served consecutively with her existing sentence.

"I think she got a good deal," said Anthony Robusto, who represented Perez.

He said he has no idea where she used the money she received from the scheme. Perez didn't tell him, he said.

Detectives said the Ponzi scheme ran from June 2008 until August 2010. The scam ended when one investor went to the Sheriff's Department and filed a complaint.

When the three women were arrested last year, investigators alleged they defrauded more than 40 people all over Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.


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