General Crime

Stephen Lopez of Lafayette managing director of Lighthorse Ventures LLC indicted on fraud charges

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The managing director of a Walnut Creek-based private equity investment company has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Oakland and arrested on charges of defrauding investors. U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag announced Monday that Stephen Lopez, 57, of Lafayette, the managing director of Lighthorse Ventures LLC, was arrested on Thursday. Lopez was indicted by a federal grand jury on March 13 on three counts of mail fraud, seven counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering related to financial transactions he conducted in 2008.

The indictment was sealed until Lopez’s first court appearance before a federal magistrate in Oakland on Friday. At that appearance, Lopez pleaded not guilty and was released on a $100,000 bond. He is due to appear before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White, the trial judge assigned to the case, in Oakland on May 23 for a status conference and possible setting of a trial date.

According to the indictment, Lopez solicited loans on behalf of Lighthorse and signed promissory notes in which he promised to repay the principal in a timely way, along with interest of 10 or 12 percent per year. The indictment alleges he defrauded investors by not telling them that he had failed to return the principal and interest to the majority of previous lenders and that he owed $600,000 to one group of investors in 2008 as a result of a civil settlement.

The indictment also alleges that Lopez defrauded prospective lenders by overvaluing Lighthorse’s existing investments and falsely telling the lenders that Lighthorse held additional ownership interests in other companies, real estate and oil wells. If Lopez is convicted, the fraud counts each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and the money laundering counts each have a maximum of 10 years.

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