A Fresno County Superior Court jury today announced a civil verdict of $46.5 million against the two senior officers of a defunct northwest Fresno business for their involvement in an alleged Ponzi scheme.
Jurors deliberated two days before finding Dan Ramirez, president of HL Leasing Inc., and Andy Fernandez, the company's chief financial officer, liable for the damages.
The verdict in the class-action suit came three days after Judge Donald Black found HL Leasing Inc., Heritage Pacific Leasing and Air Fred, LLC also liable for damages in which more than 1,200 victims lost about $137 million, said attorney Ara Jabagchourian, who represented the plaintiffs.
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He conceded the victims likely won't ever get full restitution. "They will get something back," he said. "But it will be pennies on the dollar."
The alleged scheme bilked more than 800 people from the Fresno area, many of them Armenian Americans.
The jury found Ramirez guilty of fraudulent concealment and aiding and abetting the fraud. Fernandez was found guilty of aiding and abetting the fraud.
A third defendant, Kathleen Otto, was found not liable. Her husband, John W. Otto, was the alleged mastermind of the scheme, but he committed suicide in 2009, leaving Ramirez, Fernandez and his widow to defend themselves in a three-week trial.