"Dona" Branca is Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Maintaining a Ponzi Scheme in Portugal

María Branca dos Santos, more commonly referred to as "Dona" Branca (1902 - 1992) was a Portuguese criminal known chiefly for maintaining a Ponzi scheme in Portugal between 1970 and 1984 that paid a ten percent monthly interest.

During this time she became popularly known as "The people's banker".

Dona Branca was arrested in 1984, and in 1988 she was sentenced to 10 years in prison. She was one of the last inmates of Convento das Mónicas when it was dismantled in 1989.

In 1993 RTP created a telenovela titled A Banqueira do Povo ("The People's Banker") based on these events with Eunice Muñoz playing the role of the title character, in this case Dona Benta.

Convento das Mónicas or Monica's convent, was an Augustinian nunnery founded in Lisbon in 1586 to the religious order of Saint Augustine, and named after his mother Saint Monica.

The convent was partially destroyed by the 1755 earthquake. After being rebuilt, it continued to serve its function as a convent until being dissolved in 1834 by the abolishing of the monastic orders.

In 1917, the building was converted to a female prison that was in use until 1989, when the structure was dismantled. It is currently used for cultural purposes.