The Real Deal Los Angeles

Ponzi-schemer’s old digs sell at 40% discount

Beverly Hills property was modeled after Marie Antoinette’s private chateau
By Gabrielle Paluch | November 18, 2016 10:30AM

2571 Wallingford Drive

2571 Wallingford Drive

A Beverly Hills home modeled after Marie Antoinette’s private chateau in Versailles sold for $22 million earlier this month, down roughly 40 percent from its previous asking price of $37.5 million.

Seller Jeoung Lee, a Korean healthcare entrepreneur who made her money in the nursing home business, purchased the property for just $16.75 million in 2007 from then-owner Curtis Somoza, a Ponzi schemer who was in prison on fraud charges. Before his incarceration, Somoza had commissioned large-scale renovations of the 22,000-square-foot, seven-bedroom manor.

In 2009, he was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison for masterminding the $64 million Ponzi scheme. During sentencing, the judge described Somoza’s outsized spending — $27 million in just 16 months, $14 million of which went on the home — as “an orgy in self-indulgence.”

The buyers in the most recent deal were developers Gala Asher and Ed Berman. The property was not officially for sale at the time of the transaction, but had been on and off the market several times in the past few years. Last year, Susan Perryman of Hilton & Hyland had the listing and told Forbes that Lee had become an empty nester and didn’t need all the space.

Lee, who runs a number of health care centers, completed Somonza’s renovations, finishing off the baroque interiors and antique mirroring in the entryway.

The neighborhood is also reportedly home to Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine.