Equal Opportunity In Action!!!  Female Joins The Male Big Leagues!!!  The Big Leagues Of Male…

For a long time, women have been asking for, fighting for and demanding their rights:

For gender equality:

For equal pay:

For freedom from sexual harassment:

And while much progress has been made, much more is needed.

So it’s heartening to learn about one small step for womankind:

A female joining the big leagues!

The big leagues of males.

Male criminals.

Crooks.

Con artists.

Yes, when the door to opportunity opened, she stepped right up and stepped right through it:

Makes you proud, doesn’t it?

Granted, she’s not in the major leagues like Charles Ponzi (1882-1949), whose last name is now synonymous fraudulent investment schemes.  Ponzi’s con cost investors around $20 million in 1920 dollars, or $298 million today.

Or Bernie Madoff (1938-2021), who masterminded the biggest investment fraud in U.S. history, ripping off tens of thousands of people of as much as $65 billion.

But for our con artist –Ruixue “Serena” Shi (pictured) – that $26 million is a respectable con.

And if she hadn’t been caught…

Who knows who far she might have gone?

The Fortune article says,

“Prosecutors said that from late 2015 to mid-2018, Shi was the general manager of a real estate company based in China that had a Los Angeles office.  She solicited investments, mainly from Chinese investors, in a 207-unit luxury complex to be built in the city of Coachella, in the desert southeast of Los Angeles.”

Here’s Coachella:

The location for this luxury complex was not exactly the Garden Spot of the West:

But the location was, as one article put it, “situated in between the Fantasy Spring and the Spotlight 29 Casinos in Coachella.” 

So casinos nearby, but also important, says this 2017 article:

The complex – going by the name of Hyde Coachella Valley Resorts and Residences at the time – would have been the first hotel in the City of Coachella.

This is a long, convoluted story and there’s plenty about it online so I won’t get into all of that.  But here are a few highlights from various articles:

Shi tricked more than 160 people into putting down payments on the condos – the majority of whom were investors from China.  She often gave sales presentations at hotels, and contacted individuals over the Chinese messaging and social media app WeChat.

In 2015 and again in 2017, Shi had sales presentations in China where she was accompanied by Coachella city officials. (It seems investors in far-off China weren’t the only people Shi conned.)

Shi at a sales presentation in China.  Note the “Hyde Coachella Valley Resorts and Residences” behind her.

By 2017 investors were questioning why they weren’t receiving the promised rental income from the condos they’d purchased.  The finger-pointing began, and so did the lawsuits.

The Department of Justice got involved, and Shi was arrested in June 2020, charged with one count of wire fraud:

Up until then, Shi had been living well, as big- and major-league con artists often do:

“‘For example, she allegedly used $2.2 million of investor money to pay a company that provided luxury travel and concierge services, nearly $295,000 to purchase two Mercedes-Benz automobiles, and hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy clothes, restaurant meals, and hotel stays in Beverly Hills, France, Thailand and China,’ said a Department of Justice press release.”

Note to self:  The next time I buy two Mercedes, make sure they’re color coordinated.

Shi was in federal custody since August 2020 after law enforcement discovered she had been researching how to flee the United States on a contraband iPhone while free on bond in the criminal case.  She remained in custody, and in October 2021 Shi pleaded guilty to that one count of wire fraud:

At her sentencing in November 2022 the judge refused to allow Shi to withdraw her 2021 plea to wire fraud, saying “There has been no acceptance of responsibility; there has been a denial of responsibility.”

And then…

In addition to prison time, Shi was ordered to pay $35.8 million in restitution.

So…

The site plan for Hyde Coachella Valley Resorts and Residences Shi happily shared with the City of Coachella in November 2015…

Never went beyond the drawing stage.

The land she promised to develop for investors…

Remains as it was.

The City of Coachella website…

Lists five hotels – but none of them in Coachella.

And as for Shi’s victims, according to this from the Department of Justice:

“In connection with the sentencing hearing, more than two dozen victims submitted statements to the court, with many describing the substantial financial hardship they experienced.  Several discussed their reliance on Shi’s false promises that their investments would assist them in securing visas to immigrate to the United States.  

“One victim wrote that, after losing his retirement savings to Shi’s scheme, he ‘even contemplated suicide,’ according to court papers filed by prosecutors.”

It’s unlikely Shi’s victims will ever see any of that $35.8 million in restitution she was ordered to pay.

Ruixue “Serena” Shi was smart and brave and bold – good things for a woman to be. 

Then she boldly went where many men have gone before:  into the con game.

Now Shi, 38, is going to where many men have also gone before:

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