William Hutchings — Scammer
The conceive of a scam in which about 400 homeowners in San Diego and Riverside counties were tricked into paying nearly $2 million in fees in hopes of beating foreclosure was sentenced to 46 years in prison.
William Hutchings, 63, was among 10 people indicted in May 2008 for allegedly preying on mostly non-English-speaking Hispanic homeowners who were in foreclosure, claiming to offer assistance in preventing the loss of their homes.
After an eight-week trial, he was found guilty in March of 160 counts of conspiracy to commit grand theft, grand theft, rent skimming and deceitful practices by a foreclosure consultant.
Judge Charles Gill told Hutchings that he "concocted" a "totally meritless program."
The program left many of the homeowners in worse shape than they were before, with some of them being evicted, prosecutors said.
"We not only took economic losses but we also suffered emotionally, " Floriberto Gutierrez said through a Spanish interpreter. "There's many of us who lost our families -- separations -- and with the economic crisis that's happening in this country, we haven't recovered as we wished."
At least six of Hutchings' co-defendants -- including his wife and ex-wife -- have pleaded guilty and two are set for trial, prosecutors said.
The judge ordered Hutchings and his convicted co-defendants to be held liable for restitution.
In the scam, which ran from January 2007 to May 2008, the defendants acquired grant deeds to homes in foreclosure, based on untrue or misleading statements that they would prevent homeowners from losing their homes through foreclosure, prosecutors said.
Two methods were used for inducing owners of residences in foreclosure to participate in a so-called land grant program, prosecutors said.
One method required homeowners to pay a one-time fee of up to $10, 000 to put their property in a land grant.
The second method was a lease-back scheme in which homeowners paid the defendants $500 or more and then transferred their property via land grant deeds to the defendants for no consideration and then made monthly payments, purportedly to rent their homes back.
The programs seemed to be "made by God, " Marina Ramos said.
"I trusted in them, and afterwards when I found out the program was false, everything came tumbling down -- I felt like a criminal, " Ramos said.
In both scenarios, homeowners were eventually foreclosed upon and evicted and retained no legally recognized title to their property, prosecutors said.
"You need to know how deeply sorry I am, " Hutchings told the victims who crowded the downtown courtroom.
The defendant said the "sin of pride" made him believe he could help the victims out of foreclosure.
The courts have been filled with cases involving scams by people preying on homeowners facing financial problems., a husband and wife were sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to a Ponzi scheme targeting Filipino families. A trial is currently underway in San Diego in which a man is accused of selling land patents to mostly South Bay homeowners facing foreclosure.