ESCONDIDO — San Diego County investors got more than they bargained for when they met Janet Reiswig in an upscale La Jolla office two years ago.
“I was devastated when I realized what had happened with the money that we had invested,” Josie Vella, of Kearny Mesa, told the court. “I think I’m speaking for all of us when I say our lives have been changed forever.”
A handful of victims attended the Feb. 18 sentencing held in a Vista courtroom; however, as the judge noted, a couple of them have passed away. Janet Reiswig, 66, and her husband, Ronald Reiswig, pleaded guilty in January to three felony grand theft charges relating to stealing approximately $1.8 million from August 2006 to July 2007. The money was stolen through their two nonprofit businesses — U.S. America and Global Reserve, BJ — from 39 victims throughout San Diego County.
“I guess she’s been doing this for awhile, so it didn’t phase her to look all of us all in the eye and promise to boost our little nest egg knowing all along that she had no intention of helping us only to help herself, and I say shame on you,” Vella said.
Rebecca Mason, of Escondido, said she and her husband trusted Janet Reiswig because they had invested with her prior to this scheme. Mason, who said she lost $125,000 to the defendant, told the court Janet Reiswig had even come to her house to sign documents.
“She comes in here today shackled and we’re free, but yet she’s left us with a burden as well,” Mason said in court.
Like the other victims who spoke, Mason said she and her husband have had a hard time trusting people since being bilked.
Judge Joel Pressman scolded Janet Reiswig, telling her he was unhappy with the plea deal and that he only accepted to facilitate the process of the victims getting back some of their investment.
“You played the system, just like you played these people,” Pressman said. “You manipulated the system and delayed these people from getting their money back.”
The Escondido couple’s plea came weeks before they were set to go to trial, according to court documents. At one point, Janet Reiswig planned to represent herself in the case.
As part of their plea deal, the Reiswigs will have a three-year prison sentence added on to their existing sentence from a 2007 fraud conviction out of Orange County. Additionally, they cannot appeal the conviction.
The couple will now have to serve at least 10 more years in prison, court records state.
Throughout the hearing and the case, Janet Reiswig showed no remorse nor did she offer up any apologies to the victims.
Deputy District Attorney Anna Winn said the victims responded to an ad posted in the San Diego Union-Tribune by the Reiswigs’ company, U.S. America, for Certificates of Deposit under FDIC. She said the ad offered up interest rates slightly better than the market rate.
“These victims were not falling for a scam or some kind of pie in the sky advertisement,” Winn said.
She said many of the victims, at least half of whom are 65 years or older, still have a hard time of getting over the feeling that they are at fault.
“These people did absolutely nothing wrong,” Winn said. “They are completely blameless victims.”
She said the victims would get approximately 55 percent of their investment returned by Easter.
Ronald Reiswig’s sentencing was delayed until Feb. 25 because his attorney was not available for the hearing.