A 49-year-old man filed quitclaim deeds on five “distressed”
homes in Anaheim, Dana Point and San Clemente he did not own to make a profit by renting the
properties, a prosecutor told a jury today.
Blair Christopher 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.
Hanloh now faces a count of second-degree commercial burglary and five counts of recording a false or forged instrument, all felonies.
Hanloh is accused of filing quitclaim deeds against five homes facing foreclosure or already foreclosed upon and changing the locks, according to Deputy District Attorney Pete Pierce.
“It's actually a scam, a con,” Pierce told jurors. “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 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 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 alleged. 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 foreclosured upon and was owned by Wells Fargo Bank, Pierce said. Hanloh is accused of filing 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, did not dispute that Hanlon filed quitclaim deeds against the five homes.
“Where the dispute is did Mr. Hanloh knowingly file false documents?” Kelly said. “This is not the scam Mr. Pierce said it was.”
Hanloh “located abandoned properties in Orange County that he felt were in disrepair” and took control of them as part of a “nuisance abatement” effort, Kelly said.
“I'm not saying what Mr. Hanloh did was completely selfless,” Kelly said. “But what he did was not illegal .... He did not believe there was anything false on those quitclaim deeds he recorded.”
When Hanloh was confronted by the real homeowners in Anaheim Hills he tried to resolve the issues, Kelly said.
“He does not want to take homes from people who have emotional attachments to their homes,” Kelly said. “His battle is with the banks.”
--City News Service
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