Wednesday, October 26, 2011

California Appeals Court Affirms 46-Year Prison Sentence For Sale Leaseback Peddler Who Ran Purported Federal Land Grant Home-Saving Racket

A California Court of Appeals recently affirmed a 46-year prison sentence(1) for William Jeffrey Hutchings for running a racket where he peddled a phony sale leaseback land grant program targeting homeowners in or near foreclosure in the San Diego area.(2)

In addition to clipping financially strapped homeowners for a one-time $10,000 upfront fee, he also pocketed the homeowners rent on the leaseback arrangement without paying the mortgages, allowing the homes to be foreclosed and the victims to get booted out of their homes.

While the 46-year prison imposition is the result of a laundry list of minor sentences made to run consecutively, the trial court, in a possible show of mercy, avoided a 'piling-on' effect by staying or ordering concurrent some of the sentencing terms and dismissing one of the sentence enhancements in the interest of justice.

For the court ruling, see People v. Hutchings, No. D057451 (Cal. App. 4th Dist, Div. 1, October 18, 2011).

(1) A jury convicted William Jeffrey Hutchings of one count of conspiracy to commit grand theft (Pen. Code, §182, subd. (a)(1)); 65 counts of grand theft (§ 487, subd. (a)); 41 counts of deceitful practices by a mortgage foreclosure consultant (Civ. Code, § 2945.4); and 56 counts of rent skimming (Civ. Code, §§ 890, 892).

The jury also found true the special allegations that Hutchings took funds and property of another with the value exceeding $100,000 (§ 1203.045, subd. (a)), the aggregate losses from all the charges exceeded $150,000 (§ 12022.6, subd. (a)(2)), and the charges involved a taking in excess of $500,000, through a pattern of fraud and embezzlement (§ 186.11, subd. (a)(2)).

(2) The following excerpt from the ruling briefly describes the phony Federal land grant racket run by Hutchings:

  • Beginning in 2006, Hutchings commenced a purported federal land grant program promising to save homeowners facing foreclosure from losing their homes. He promoted the program with the following assertions: (1) the United States agreed to honor the land grants issued by the governments of Spain and Mexico in 1848 in the Treaty of Hidalgo, through which the United States acquired California as a territory; (2) when California became a state in 1850, it issued patents to the land owners to protect their respective titles in real property under federal and California law; (3) because the land and the structure upon the land were separate entities, a homeowner facing foreclosure could defeat the mortgage by (a) placing the land back under federal control in a "federal land grant program" mimicking the Treaty of Hidalgo and (b) waiting four to seven years, at which time the house would revert to the title holder free and clear of any mortgage when the bank wrote off the loan or the statute of limitations expired.

    Hutchings and/or his representatives provided manuals and seminar presentations assuring homeowners the land grant was superior to any other forms of title and prohibited the bank from enforcing its loan, trespassing on the property, initiating eviction proceedings, or taking any action to defeat the homeowner's possession of the house permanently affixed to the land.

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