“I tried to help them” but “things went terrible,” he told the judge.
A con man accused of using the stolen identities of his parents to run up more than $3 million in debts was sentenced to 14 years prison, last week.
Tyler Adams admitted 48 felony fraud counts on the day that his case was set for trial, last month.
The fraudster’s mother and stepfather were living in a mobile home in Pennsylvania, when then-34-year-old Tyler Adams was purchasing properties in Rancho Santa Fe and La Jolla and downtown San Diego, in 2006.
The prodigal stepson collected more than $180,000 in commissions alone, because he posed as both loan officer and real estate agent during the purchases, according to Deputy District Attorney Anna Winn.
Adams also collected rent from tenants and pocketed that money; he never made any payments and defaulted on at least five mortgages, the prosecutor said. Tyler Adams also opened up credit lines to buy clothing and computers and to charge common expenses such as groceries and gasoline.
Adams’ step-father tried contacting law enforcement in California in 2007, after the man began to suspect what was going on.
Tyler Adams fled to Hawaii that year. Adams reportedly lived in Kahala and was known there as Kevin Kennedy – and four other names. Eventually, a grand jury in Oahu indicted the multi-named man for stealing $130,000 from Hawaiian banks; Adams is accused of registering four fake businesses and a charity in that state and then opening bank accounts for each. All this was reported in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, which quoted a prosecutor there who described Tyler Adams as “a con man, a sociopath who had no regard for the victims’ property or those who might be affected by his criminal activity.”
Fraud investigators in San Diego County got an arrest warrant for Tyler Adams in July 2009. After some months, they found him moving his belongings out of a property in La Jolla, and arrested him in November 2009.
Stepdad Donald Chaffee flew out from Pennsylvania to testify at a preliminary hearing in San Diego County in June 2011. During the 3-day hearing, the man was shown many documents; he said “No, that is not my signature” probably thirty times. Donald Chaffee said he worked the same job at a metal shop for twenty years, making twelve dollars an hour, and his wife Bonnie worked at a plastics assembly plant for twenty years. Donald Chaffee said he married Bonnie more than 30 years ago, and took in her 4-year-old child and raised him like a father. He said Tyler Adams grew up using the name Kevin Michael Schoolcraft.
After a stint in the Navy, Kevin Michael Schoolcraft moved back in with his parents, the stepdad said. Kevin Schoolcraft went to Penn State University, but friction developed because the stepson was “trying to control everything,” according to Donald Chaffee. He described his stepson as “opinionated” and “such a dominating and controlling person.” His parents finally kicked him out of the mobile home and Kevin moved to California and changed his name to Tyler Adams.
In a video’d statement played in court last week, Donald Chaffee said he had phone conversations with Tyler in which the stepson said that if he was smart enough to take advantage of people, then that’s just the way the world works. The stepfather expressed sorrow at how all this has affected his wife, the mother of Tyler Adams. “It’s taken the heart and soul out of her,” he stated. “It’s her only child. You don’t expect them to be perfect, but you don’t expect them to be bad.”
Donald Chaffee said he never heard a word of remorse from Tyler Adams.
At the sentencing hearing November 15, Tyler Adams told the judge, “I would never say that” and “I don’t know who’s feeding him those things to say.” He told the judge that prosecutor Anna Winn “got them to turn against me.”
The admitted fraudster told Superior Court Judge Robert Kearney, “I love my family very much.” He claimed, “I tried to help them” but “things went terrible.” Adams said the real estate market collapsed and his wife was pregnant and he didn’t know what to do.
Adams sometimes acted as his own attorney over the years that he has been in custody in San Diego County. As the case progressed, he filed one motion which stated: “This was a monetary dispute civil matter amongst family members from the very beginning.”
Judge Kearney spoke directly to Adams. “You are very sharp and you knew what you were doing,” the judge said. “What you did was brutal, it was prolific, and it was sophisticated.” Judge Kearney committed the felon to the California Department of Corrections for 14 years. Adding in “good time credits,” Tyler Adams already has credit for serving 6 years, according to prosecutor Winn.
Tyler Adams, now 40, immediately asked Judge Kearney to make his sentence run concurrent with whatever sentence a Hawaiian court might give him. The judge informed Adams that he has no authority to make that order. Adams also submitted paperwork for an appeal, before the sentencing hearing was finished.
Prosecutor Anna Winn said a prosecutor in Hawaii has been in frequent contact with her, he is interested in progress of Tyler Adams’ case. Attorney Winn said that normally California will not give up a prisoner to another State before the prison term is finished, but exemptions can be made through a “governor-to-governor warrant.”
Related story: I'm Smarter, So I Deserve This, City Lights, August 17, 2011
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