Two former Ward Real Estate officers sentenced to jail for Ponzi scheme
by Denise Ellen Rizzo
Aug 10, 2012 | 12149 views | 16 16 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Leesa Marie Ward and Alison Ann Jensen, officers of Ward Real Estate, were sentenced in SJ Superior Court on Aug. 9 to three years in jail for a ponzi scheme.  Glenn Moore Tracy Press
Leesa Marie Ward and Alison Ann Jensen, officers of Ward Real Estate, were sentenced in SJ Superior Court on Aug. 9 to three years in jail for a ponzi scheme. Glenn Moore Tracy Press
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STOCKTON – Anger and tears overflowed as victims of a Ponzi scheme operated by Leesa Marie Ward and Alison Ann Jensen took turns sharing their stories of financial loss during the women’s sentencing on Thursday, Aug. 9.

Fifteen victims were present at San Joaquin County Superior Court to talk about the losses they experienced at the hands of Ward and Jensen, who were each sentenced to three years in San Joaquin County Jail with an option to apply for an in-house arrest program with an ankle monitor.

A Ponzi scheme is an investment swindle in which some early investors are paid off with money put up by later ones in order to encourage more and bigger risks, according to Webster’s Dictionary.

Court documents state that Ward and Jensen — acting as officers of Ward Real Estate — collected the money in the form of investments from 33 victims ranging from $45,000 to $1,000,000 for a total restitution loss of $5,806,735.18.

Judge Richard Guiliani sentenced Ward and Jensen, both 47 years old, to three years in county jail after they agreed to a deal with Deputy District Attorney James Lewis to enter guilty pleas on Thursday. Both women admitted to failure to file tax returns with intent to evade, sale of securities by false statements, grand theft and conspiracy.

Guiliani said both women have until Sept. 10 to get permission from the San Joaquin County Sheriff to implement the home monitoring program or report to the jail by Oct. 1 to being serving their sentence.

Before sentence was pronounced on the two women, Jensen cried as she apologized for her actions to the victims present in the courtroom. However, she denied any involvement in the money scheme.

“I have to live with this reality every single day,” she said. “I am truly sorry for everything that happened.”

Tempers flared for a few of the victims, while others found it difficult to hold back their tears as they addressed the court.

“What Leesa Ward and Alison Jensen did to all these people is appalling,” said Paula Barnett, who lost $170,000. “They knew what they were doing. They set out to defraud us. Three years is ridiculous. Three years should be in prison.”

Barnett demanded that the defendants turn and face her and the other victims, but Guiliani told her they were not allowed. He said all of their comments had to be made directly to the court.

Barnett said she lost her savings and her home because of the Ponzi scheme, while others said they had to fight numerous foreclosures.

Willie Smith, who lost $200,000, said the actions of Ward and Jensen destroyed the dreams and life savings he and his wife had collected.

“It was nothing more than a Ponzi scheme,” Smith said. “You knew that from the beginning.”

Claudette Medeiros, who lost $90,000 of her inheritance, said she had a “gut feeling” there was something wrong when she handed a check to Ward. She said that Ward guaranteed her a 12-percent return on an investment. Meanwhile, Ward was reportedly spending the money on parties, plastic surgery and vehicles.

Al Murray, whose father lost $394,000, said “Lisa said she guaranteed no one would lose anything.”

“What happened to all the money? I want justice for my dad and everyone here,” Murray said.

Lewis, who prosecuted the case, told the victims that he too wasn’t happy with the settlement agreement, but he said he tried to seek a resolution that was best for all involved. He said that investigators conducted an extensive search for the victims’ money, but its believed that it was all spent while the scheme was underway.

Lewis noted that Ward tried to protect herself by filing for bankruptcy in 2009.

“This was a complex settlement,” Lewis said, “and I tried to get the best results for the victims.”

The two women are no longer work as realtors or file for bankruptcy again, Lewis said. Unless the money is uncovered at a later date, Lewis said the victims will only get reimbursed if Ward or Jensen inherit it or win the lottery.

Ward is reportedly living in Los Angeles with her boyfriend, while Jensen is believed to be a resident in the San Joaquin County area.

The case against the third defendant, Ward Real Estate bookkeeper Sharon Lee Graham, has yet to go to trial. A preliminary hearing for Graham has been scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 15 in Department 36 of San Joaquin County Superior Court. According to court documents, Ward and Jensen have agreed to testify against Graham.

• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or drizzo@tracypress.com

Comments
(16)
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AshleyM70
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September 27, 2012
Factually the case was weak as most fraud cases; intent is difficult to prove at trial, especially mixed with a poor economy and the downward real estate market....but to clarify...from court records Ward was the lead con artist, and key in the financial fraud...Jensen was brought in by association and being an officer of the company and took the fall...note she claimed no involvement in the financial fraud, a judge can't accept a plea if any defendant counters charges they plead guilty too, unless there is more to this case (remember a judge threw this case out the first time due to lack of evidence last year, DA had to re-file)...and regarding all the unfounded comments below...to drive home what a con Ward was to her clients let alone Jensen....She isn't living in LA with a boyfriend...she got married to Jensen's wealthy Ex-Husband!! Good luck dude.
french48
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August 17, 2012
Why don't they take her name off that building? Everytime you turn that corner you see it. I am sure this just reminds her victims of what she did to them. They should take them to court and sue them for everything they have or will ever have. Obviously greedy evil 3 women. They need to go to jail and pay the price
sdsailer
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August 14, 2012
Justm...Maria was also the first woman to raise a toddler...
ertion
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August 13, 2012
Ward and Jensen would have been better off running a brokerage. Jon Corzine, CEO of MF Global, stole $1.6 BILLION of his customer's money in segregated accounts, which is a crime, and yet has never been charged. At last look, he's still out raising money for Obama.

As one of the posters said previously, the justice system is Just Us. Three years house arrest for defrauding people of $5 million is looking pretty soft to me...

If its any consolation to those of you who were cheated, remember that bad pennies always turn up. This pair won't be able to stay out of jail, just the same as OJ Simpson, who got away with murder and then ended up spending 12 years in prison for armed robbery.
beepbeepcomingthrough
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August 13, 2012
Correction Denise Rizzo....The WARD lady isn't in Southern California living with a boyfriend. She has never been interested in MEN...she is down in SOCAL living with her GIRLFRIEND. Not that there is anything wrong with that! Just wanna make sure we get the Ward story straight the whole way through. LOL cuz what good guy would want her!
landingapproach
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August 12, 2012
No Leesa had a white car. It looks like the D.A. did a thorough job with a ton of investigations for 3 years and got all of the people involved.
LuckyInTracyNot
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August 12, 2012
Is Leesa Marie Ward the girl (realestate agent) who we all seen in town driving her yellow bmw back in the mid 1990's? She also had a monthly newsletter and it was mostly about just her and her baby?
french48
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August 17, 2012
That was Maria Meekus who was her sister. I believe she took off to Texas
Malia
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August 12, 2012
The investors were not stupid. Fraud, as you can see from the SEC report, has hit people from all levels of education and wealth. The defendants should lose their assets to the victims, and perform community service for many years to come. Shame on them, shame on anyone who would hurt others for personal gain. http://www.sec.gov/spotlight/enf-actions-ponzi.shtml
tracyresdnt
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August 11, 2012
Never write a check directly to someone investing money for you. It should always be written payable to the investment company.
ChrisRoberts
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August 10, 2012
Best advise would be for the victims to call an attorney who practices torts. Sue the life out of that plastic surgery bimbo.
yepper
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August 10, 2012
O.M.G. ! STEAL $5,000,000 & get home monitoring "?" Where is the JUSTICE or is "JUST US" ? You'd be 'locked-up' longer if you committed armed robbery . The ONLY thing DIFFERENT is they didn't use a gun! In America "White-Collar" crime PAYS! Fantastic judicial system................
Jim_Lamb
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August 10, 2012
Steal 5 million dollars, and get to stay at home... This situation disgusts me. There are people in jail serving much steeper sentences for drug possession that arguably didn't harm anybody but potentially themselves. These women destroyed the lives of people who trusted them. Their inadequate sentence shows how pitiful our legal system and moral priorities are....
shelly13
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August 10, 2012
My old boss swindled people out of 5 million and got 14 years in prison through Federal court.
walkingtall
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August 10, 2012
Simply dumb founded. Three years for all that they did to these people and then they have the opportunity for home monitoring! This is the reason why people commit crimes because there are no real consequences to doing the crimes. These two scumbags should not only spend three years, they should have a real sentence that is all spent in jail. Should be 10 years, as home monitoring is not punishment. Our system protects the perps, not the victims! Very sad for the victims of this crime.
Tinfoil
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August 10, 2012
I won't call the victims stupid but they certainly are ignorant. All of my estate's monies are invested thru Morgan Stanley,not thru Joe Blow or Jane Doe. I receive from a low of 6% to 7.5%. Sometimes a bit higher. I'm 66 years old and am living a comfortable life thanks to being intelligent enough not to trust my estate to a couple of idiots. There's creeps who put let me invest your monies advertisements on supermarket bulliton boards,etc. It's a rough,unforgiving world out there. For goshsakes,people,trust your instincts. We all have a built-in BS meter. I would'nt have given those two broads a dime.


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