“I Did It” – The Story of Gina Champion-Cain

| September 5, 2022 | 0 Comments

For those of us who knew Gina Champion-Cain, a Mission Hills resident, and the owner of numerous San Diego restaurants, two local markets and vacation properties, it’s still difficult to understand what motivated her to earn the title as the “mastermind behind the largest woman-led Ponzi scheme in US history—$400 million, plus or minus.”

To help explain the details of this long and well-orchestrated process, two local authors collaborated to share the story and her motivation.

Neil Senturia is a San Diego entrepreneur and venture capitalist who writes a weekly award-winning business column for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He has known Gina Champion-Cain for more than 20 years. 

Barbara Bry is an entrepreneur who was a business writer for the Sacramento Bee and the Los Angeles Times and has served on the San Diego City Council.  She has a Harvard MBA and is the founder of three organizations that empower women. 

I Did It” is the story of Gina Champion-Cain. This real-life story includes a multitude of participants, banks, hedge funds, egomaniacs, and small-time crooks, all fueled by greed, stupidity, and a keen desire to look the other way.

And even when they were looking in the right direction, all of these people and entities saw nothing. Champion-Cain was the Penn and Teller of misdirection, acting with caring behavior to other people (while bilking her investors), creating philanthropic endeavors and single-handedly pursuing her dream of building an empire, taking it public, and cashing out all the investors.

In August 2019, Champion-Cain’s seven-year program of selling phony liquor license loans came to an end when the SEC, the US Attorney’s Office, and the FBI filed suit and shut it down. In San Diego, Champion-Cain, then fifty-four, was an icon. To the outside world, this beautiful, charismatic woman looked as if she had succeeded in a male-dominated, good-old-boys club—building an empire that included real estate, restaurants, and retail; she was a guest economics commentator for the San Diego Union-Tribune; and she served on prestigious corporate and nonprofit boards.

The City of San Diego even honored her with her own Gina Champion-Cain Day. She cooked dinner for her husband, Steve, walked the dogs on the beach, and was a role model for young women. But in reality, her empire was a house of cards funded with money from a financial fraud.

After reading the book I am still shocked and amazed with the fact that Champion-Cain, who always appeared to be in total control of her life, was running a pyramid scheme that was surely destined to fail. 

Even though I ate at her establishments, and promoted her businesses, I always believed something was amiss. Unfortunately, my gut instincts were correct.

I feel sorry for the people who invested in her liquor license adventure, yet, I wonder, how could they not have known.  Because it really never made sense.

The book makes it clear that Champion-Cain admits her guilt, though she does question why anyone would have invested in her “get rich scheme.”

I have learned that Gina Champion-Cain will not receive any money from the sales of the book.

The book does include interviews with people who were impacted by the scam, and Gina Champion-Cain tells how it all began and unravels.

The book releases on September 13, 2022 and will be available on Amazon and other on-line book retailers.

Gina Champion-Cain received numerous accolades for her business empire and accomplishments.

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Category: Authors, Books, Business, feature, Finance, Local News, National News, Real Estate, Restaurants

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