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Developer Who Sold Nonexistent Coachella Valley Condos Ordered To Pay $36M, Serve Time


A developer who duped more than 160 prospective buyers into paying upward of $26M for Coachella Valley condos that didn't exist received a sentence of 20 years in prison and must pay $36M in restitution. 

Most of the buyers were Chinese nationals, some of whom lost their savings on these nonexistent condos, the Los Angeles Times reported. Instead of building the condos buyers thought they were investing in, Ruixue Shi, also known as Serena Chi, bought cars, international trips and high-end clothing. 

“There has been no acceptance of responsibility; there has been a denial of responsibility," United States District Judge R. Gary Klausner commented at her Monday sentencing hearing after Shi attempted to withdraw her initial guilty plea. 

The 20-year sentence was the maximum allowed by law. Prosecutors sought the longer sentence instead of the 16 years they initially sought after Shi moved to back out of her plea agreement and pivoted to maintaining her innocence instead of taking responsibility for her actions, the LA Times said. 

Shi's project was Hyde Hotel & Residences Coachella Valley. It would have had 350 units built by a subsidiary of the LA-based company SBE, famous for its nightlife hot spots.

Related Topics: Coachella Valley