Leticia Sandoval, 44 of Gilroy, was arrested and charged with 14 felonies, including grand theft and securities fraud.
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GILROY—A Gilroy woman accused of swindling hundreds of thousands of dollars from people sending money to families in Mexico was arrested and charged this week with 14 felonies.
Leticia Sandoval, 44, was charged with grand theft, securities fraud and burglary, prosecutors with the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.
Using her Creaciones Lety flower shop in downtown Gilroy as a front, she pocketed more than $250,000 over the past six months from Hispanics in Gilroy and the South Bay. Many victims spoke Spanish or little English, prosecutors said.
At the downtown shop alone, at 7261 Monterey St., investigators say Sandoval swindled more than $42,000 under the pretenses of transferring money via a wire service to victims’ family overseas. She did it with a money transfer business she told police she’d run for 12 years, according to a statement from the District Attorney’s office.
Prosecuting Deputy District Attorney Vishal Bathija, who heads the Major Fraud Unit, said there might be other victims. Investigators urge anyone who dealt with Sandoval and did not receive the money she promised to call the Gilroy Police Department at (408) 846-0350 and ask for Detective Rick Jenkins.
Investigators with the Gilroy Police Department broke the case after looking into the complaints from multiple people who accused Sandoval of not sending their money to family members.
Sandoval admitted to police investigators that she was feeling “choked by all the people she currently owed money too,” Gilroy Police Department Officer Nestor Quinones wrote in a March 18 report obtained by the Dispatch.
Multiple victims contacted the Dispatch in April to bring attention to their plight after they asked Sandoval about their money.
But their questions stopped abruptly when they received a letter from a San Jose-based attorney Sandoval retained and who ordered the victims to cease contacting her in “any manner.”
One victim, a Gilroy resident who preferred to remain anonymous, told the Dispatch she and her husband gave Sandoval $18,000 in cash in December 2014 and Sandoval told her she’d send the money when the “peso exchange rate rose.”
But when the victim spoke with her family in Mexico three months later, she learned only $3,000 had arrived. The remaining $15,000 in the wire transfer had been cancelled, wire agencies told her.
She called Sandoval and visited her shop to find out what happened, and Sandoval promised to repay her, the victim said.
Another victim, Maria Rodriguez of Gilroy, gave Sandoval more than $9,000 in January to send to Mexico. After discovering family members had received no money, it was learned the electronic transfers had been cancelled, Rodriguez told the Dispatch.
Sandoval told Gilroy police that her customers gave her money to prop up her business, with no time constraint on when she needed to send money to their families money.
She told Quinones that customers gave her their money to “run her store” and trusted that she’d “send payments when she had the means or the peso exchange rate rose,” according to Quinones’ March 18 police report.
Prosecutors don’t believe that story, either.
Sandoval is charged with 14 felony counts, including grand theft, first-degree burglary and securities fraud.
She is accused of milking $224,000 from clients through “fraudulent investment schemes” in which she promised to “share profits” through a foreign currency exchange, according to the statement from the District Attorney’s office.
Prosecutors allege Sandoval convinced investors to give her tens of thousands of dollars and promised returns in the amount of thousands of dollars per month, according to the statement.
“Most investors never received the first promised payment,” Bathija said. “In many cases, people invested their entire life savings and lost them.”
Sandoval embezzled money previously during a similar wire transfer scheme and had been prohibited from wiring money, according to the deputy district attorney.
The state Franchise Tax Board and Internal Revenue Service filed liens against Sandoval and her business in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, which she allegedly did not disclose to investors, Bathija said.
Sandoval will appear Tuesday, June 9 at the South County Courthouse in Morgan Hill in Department 106. Bail is set at $1 million. If convicted of all counts, she faces up to 20 years and four months in prison.

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