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Joint investigation, prosecution leads to guilty plea from St. Tammany man

A St. Tammany Parish man charged with running a Ponzi scheme pleaded guilty Monday to securities fraud, felony theft, and money laundering for luring his acquaintances into investing money with him. A joint effort involving the Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions, 22nd Judicial District Attorney Walter Reed’s Office, and Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s Office led to the prosecution.

Hugo Urrea, 54, of Mandeville, pleaded guilty in the 22nd Judicial District Court, Covington, to securities fraud, nine counts of felony theft, and money laundering in excess of $100,000. Urrea, who was not a licensed securities dealer, began scamming clients in 2008. He deposited clients’ checks directly into his own accounts and used thousands of dollars for his personal gain.

State District Court Judge Allison Penzato sentenced Urrea to 20 years for money laundering, 15 years suspended; 10 years for securities fraud, five years suspended; and 10 years for theft, five years suspended. The sentences are to run concurrently and include five years of active supervised probation. Judge Penzato also ordered Urrea to pay full restitution of $247,000.

Coming soon, the attorney's general office seeks to provide a mechanism by which to take online payments for collections.