SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- A former IRS agent and current Southern California tax professional was arrested last week and accused of running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded an elderly Santa Rosa woman of more than $1 million over seven years.
On Monday, Santa Rosa police identified the suspect as Elana Cohen-Roth, 77, of Marina Del Rey. Police said Cohen-Roth's Ponzi scheme consisted of making interest payments to her investors/victims, while using incoming "investment" funds to allow for her lavish lifestyle.
The victim initially reported the alleged fraud in December 2020, telling police she had entrusted a significant amount of funds to an acquaintance to invest on her behalf. The woman told police she met the suspect in 2012 through a mutual friend.
In January 2021, police said the department's property crimes units obtained search warrants for the Marina Del Rey home of Elana Cohen-Roth, 77, as well as at her employer's office in Los Angeles, seizing boxes of financial documents and correspondence. Until Monday evening, tax attorney firm Mather Anderson listed Cohen-Roth in a page on its website as an enrolled agent and tax return practitioner with 20 years of IRS experience including tax auditor, field agent and appeals officer. Update: The web page has since been removed.
In an email to CBS News San Francisco, Mather Anderson said, "Elana is not an employee of Mather Anderson and never has been. She is engaged on certain of the firm's IRS cases for accounting services. She also rents space from the firm. This matter has nothing to with any of the firm's clients." Police have not accused Mather Anderson of any wrongdoing.
Over 12 months following the initial search warrants, detectives served additional search warrants, combed through additional documents and electronic communications, and interviewed additional victims, police said. Detectives also audited bank accounts and thousands of transactions over the course of several years for the victim and suspect.
According to police, the victim had lost more than $1 million over a seven-year period to Cohen-Roth. The victim told police she believed she was investing in lucrative, high-yielding opportunities. When she no longer had any funds to invest and asked for her investments, the suspect's demeanor and communications raised the victim's suspicions, police said.
Detectives confirmed their suspicions and learned the victim had lost more than $1 million to the suspect over a seven-year period. The victim believed she was investing in lucrative high-yielding investment opportunities, but police said when the victim no longer had any funds to invest and asked for her investments to be liquidated, the suspect's demeanor and communications raised suspicions.
On January 18, Santa Rosa police detectives assisted by Los Angeles police officers arrested Cohen-Roth at her home in Marina Del Rey and booked her into L.A. Metropolitan Detention Center Jail on 22 counts of financial elder abuse and three counts of money laundering. She was expected to be transferred to the Sonoma County Jail this week.
Santa Rosa police said detectives believe there are other victims of Cohen-Roth's Ponzi scheme in California who have also invested significant funds for high yield investments. Police urged anyone who believes they are a victim to contact their local jurisdiction. Potential Sonoma County victims were asked to contact SRPD Property Crimes Detective Jeff Woods at JRWoods@srcity.org.
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