A 50-year-old man who filed quitclaim deeds on five “distressed” homes in Anaheim, Dana Point and San Clemente he did not own to make a profit by renting them was sentenced today to four years in Orange County Jail.
Blair Christopher Hanloh was convicted in October of filing false or forged documents.
Orange County Superior Court Judge William Froeberg ruled that Hanloh should serve his time in jail instead of prison because of the new state law regarding prison overcrowding.
Deputy District Attorney Pete Pierce said he was happy with the sentence itself, but insisted he would appeal the judge's ruling that Hanloh be sent to jail instead of prison.
Pierce had recommended the defendant get four years behind bars. The maximum he could have faced was five years.
A felony count of second-degree commercial burglary against Hanloh was dismissed. Jurors deadlocked 11-1 on that count, which would have added eight more months in custody for Hanloh.
Froeberg denied probation for Hanloh in part because he has shown no remorse and, “He believes he's the people's champion jousting with financial institutions.”
The crimes were “retaliatory in nature,” because Hanloh lost a home of his own to foreclosure, Froeberg said.
Hanloh acknowledged that he tried the same stunt on 70 other occasions, Froeberg noted.
Hanloh's attorney argued that her client sought “abandoned” homes and took control of the properties through a legal maneuver called adverse possession.
Orange County prosecutors charged Hanloh in June 2010 with grand theft, alleging he engaged in a $3.5 million fraud scheme, but those charges were dropped after a preliminary hearing.
Hanloh filed quitclaim deeds against five homes facing foreclosure or already foreclosed upon and changed the locks, according to Pierce.
“It's actually a scam, a con,” Pierce told jurors in his opening statement of the trial. “It was a fraud perpetrated against the victims and county officials. ... It was a con so he could gather rent money from people he put in these homes.”
The homes are at 8237 E.
Birch Tree Lane, Anaheim Hills; 7820 E.
Rainview Court, Anaheim Hills; 205 Avenida Valencia, San Clemente; 33292 Sea Bright Drive, Dana Point; and 26993 Del Gado Road, Dana Point.
The Birch Tree Lane home was owned by a man who was in negotiations with his lender and was able to hold onto the property, Pierce said. He realized someone filed a quitclaim against his property when he found someone living there and paying rent to Hanloh, Pierce said.
Anaheim Police Department Officer Steven DePaola testified he was sent to the Rainview Court home March 18, 2010, on a report from a neighbor who complained about “squatters.”
The “tenant” gave DePaola a copy of his rental contract, and Hanloh later told DePaola that he was in “control of that particular piece of property,” the officer testified.
Pierce said the home was owned by a recently divorced man facing foreclosure who had made a deal with two investors to renovate the property.
The owners tried to get the family living there evicted but, when they refused, DePaola and his supervisors concluded it was a civil dispute, the officer testified. Police later decided it was a criminal matter and started an investigation, Pierce said.
One of Hanloh's partners was found squatting in the San Clemente home on Avenida Valencia, Pierce said. City officials determined the house was not in compliance with city codes and evicted Hanloh's partner.
Hanloh rented the Sea Bright Drive home in Dana Point, which had been foreclosed upon and was owned by Wells Fargo Bank, Pierce said. Hanloh filed a quitclaim deed against the Dana Point home on Del Gado Road, although it was owned by JP Morgan Chase, Pierce said.
Hanloh's attorney, Stacy Kelly of the Orange County Public Defender's Office, declined comment on her client's sentence.
-- City News Service
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