The woman received 20 years in prison for fraud

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She received millions from investors who thought the money would go toward building a resort in the Coachella Valley, then used the money to finance a “luxurious lifestyle” of luxury cars, travel and high-end clothing.

Now Ruixue “Serena” Shi is going to prison for 20 years for the scheme that caught her tens of millions of dollars from investors. The judge also ordered her to pay more than $35 million in restitution, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

As of August 2020, Shea was free on bail in the case. Law enforcement discovered she was using a “contraband” iPhone to learn how to flee the country and took her back into custody. In October 2021, she pleaded guilty to fraud.

Shea attempted to withdraw her guilty plea at her sentencing hearing on Monday, Nov. 21, according to the release. The judge told her: “There was no liability; there was a disclaimer.”

While she was general manager of Global House Buyer LLC, a Chinese real estate company with an office in Los Angeles, she entered into an agreement with the hotel company’s LA lifestyle subsidiary to build a resort under the “Hyde” brand. It was to be a 207-unit luxury apartment and hotel complex “with 95,000 square feet of meeting facilities, a pool, spa, fitness center and other amenities.”

She gave sales presentations at hotels and contacted investors via WeChat to solicit their investment, the release said. WeChat is a Chinese messaging, social networking and mobile payment app.

She told them their money would “only be used to fund the Hyde Development Project”.

She then spent millions of them, including $300,000 on two luxury cars, $2.2 million on luxury trips and concierge services and about $800,000 on full-service styling at a Beverly Hills agency, the release said. She also spent “hundreds of thousands of dollars of victims’ money on high-end designer clothing, restaurants and other stores.”

Many of the investors filed lawsuits describing how they relied on “false promises by Shea that their investments would help them obtain visas to immigrate to the United States.” One wrote that he had lost his retirement savings to Shea’s scheme and was considering suicide.

They “invested” at least $26 million in her fraud scheme, although prosecutors said the real figure could be higher.

“The main targets were her Chinese compatriots … Shi lost her victims’ hopes for a better life,” prosecutors said during the sentencing. “She exploited her victims’ lack of English and confidence in the strength of the American economy. And while her victims suffered financial ruin and psychological anguish, [Shi] lived off his investments.”

Brooke (she/they) is a McClatchy Real-Time reporter covering LGBTQ+ news and national parks in the West. They studied journalism at the University of Florida and previously covered LGBTQ+ news for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. When they are not writing stories, they enjoy spending time with their cats, horseback riding, or spending time outdoors.

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