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Con Artist Sentenced to 2 Years for Bigamy

The woman is already serving time for running a Panorama City-based pyramid scheme.

June 06, 2003|Akilah Johnson | Times Staff Writer

Mercedes Navarrete, head of a Panorama City-based pyramid scheme that bilked nearly 16,000 people out of millions of dollars, was sentenced Thursday to two years in prison for being married to two men at the same time.

Navarrete, 55, who was found guilty of bigamy by a jury in Los Angeles Superior Court Monday, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in April for her role in La Luz de Oro Corp., an organization that promised people homes, cars and money if they paid a $75 fee and bought long-distance calling cards.

The new prison term will run concurrently with the first, meaning she won't serve any extra time, officials said.

Navarrete wed Felix Navarrete in 2000 while still married to Richard Beebe, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. Robison said Mercedes Navarrete had married Beebe in Las Vegas in 1994. The two split five years later but never divorced, authorities said.

As head of La Luz de Oro Corp., which means the Light of Gold in Spanish, Navarrete and eight others, including Felix Navarrete, took more than $15 million from nearly 16,000 investors, prosecutors said. Police have recovered about $2 million.

In October, Felix Navarrete was convicted of grand theft, securities fraud and tax evasion. He was sentenced to one year in prison and placed on probation.

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