I’m Smarter, So I Deserve This, says Tyler Adams

Accused of fraud, Tyler Adams is pleading not guilty through a 
public defender.
  • Accused of fraud, Tyler Adams is pleading not guilty through a public defender.
  • Image by Nick Morris

How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is
To have a thankless child!

— Shakespeare’s King Lear

Tyler Adams is accused of using the identities of his mom and dad to run up more than $3 million in debts in San Diego County. Instead of enjoying the properties in Rancho Santa Fe, La Jolla, and downtown San Diego that the couple had supposedly purchased, they were living in a double-wide mobile home on a couple of acres in Fairview, Pennsylvania.

Donald Chaffee testified against Adams, his stepson, at the felony fraud hearing.

Donald Chaffee testified against Adams, his stepson, at the felony fraud hearing.

“I lived in a modest house with a modest job,” said 62-year-old Donald Chaffee when he testified against his stepson at a felony fraud hearing. The bespectacled man with graying temples said he’d worked at a metal shop for 20 years making $12 an hour. His wife Bonnie had worked for two decades at a plastics assembly plant.

Donald and Bonnie Chaffee lived a simple life until 2006 — then things got complicated.

The Prodigal Son

“He is my stepson,” said Donald Chaffee, speaking of the 39-year-old man who was 4 or 5 when Donald married Bonnie in the 1970s. The child grew up using the name Kevin Michael Schoolcraft.

Kevin joined the Navy when he was 21. A couple of years later he moved back in with his parents while he attended Penn State University. But friction developed. Donald said his stepson was “trying to control everything.” The young man told his parents what to eat, disapproving of hot dogs, for example. He tried to stop his stepfather’s smoking. “He was so opinionated,” said Donald. “We actually had to ask him to leave our home.” When Donald and Bonnie kicked Kevin out, he moved to California.

After Kevin went out West, he asked his parents to call him Tyler Adams.

(In a handwritten letter to a judge, Tyler Adams claimed to take the name “Adams” from a great-grandmother. In a letter dated April 27, 2010, he stated, “I was raised by a great grandmother by the name of Thelma Adams as my natural mother was experimenting with the counter culture of her time, which I forgive and honor my mom. But when I graduated from Penn State I vowed to carry on Thelma Adams name for she had no male children to do so.” Deputy district attorney Anna Winn disputes this, stating, “I know for a fact that Bonnie is his birth mother, and no one else raised him. He lived with Bonnie and Don all his life until he left home as a young adult.”)

Tyler wanted his parents to visit him in California. Donald said he was very persistent, but the middle-aged couple resisted. They acquiesced after Tyler sent them two plane tickets.

Donald Chaffee said his stepson’s Temecula home was more home than he himself ever dreamed of possessing.

Donald Chaffee said his stepson’s Temecula home was more home than he himself ever dreamed of possessing.

Donald found Tyler’s home in Temecula “quite impressive.” In fact, he said it was more home than he ever dreamed of possessing. Tyler told his stepdad that he worked in the real estate business. Donald observed that his stepson was “quite busy” and “always on the phone.”

Tyler showed his mom and dad ten acres in North County that he wanted to subdivide and develop. The land was in De Luz. The young man told them he had plenty of cash, but he needed to use Donald’s good credit rating to swing the deal. “He’s always trying to make deals,” remembered Donald. The older man was surprised and flattered to find out that he had a good credit rating. He said he had never checked it. Oh, and Tyler said he needed power of attorney, too, and some other information, like Donald’s Social Security number, to make the real estate deal happen. “And I provided all that,” said Donald. Back home in Pennsylvania, the agreeable stepdad mailed a notarized power of attorney to Tyler in January 2006.

The same month, mail started arriving at Donald’s home that confounded him. Donald sent this email to his son, dated January 27, 2006:


Just received a package from the title company, it is addressed to David Chaffee. There are several forms for Bonnie and I to sign in front of a notary. We already talked about your mom signing anything. Also I thought you were going to take care of everything that you needed. You know I won’t sign any false statements or do anything illegal. You were just going to use my credit rating to help get your land. These papers are time sensitive (says on the outside of the envelope). Let me know.

Love Don.

From the start, Bonnie did not want anything to do with the land deal or with providing her credit rating or power of attorney. “She’s smarter than I,” said Donald, looking chastened when he told his tale five years later in court.

Donald began getting rude phone calls and mail asking why he wasn’t making payments — all for accounts he had never opened. He was stunned that he was being called a deadbeat. He never carried a balance from month to month on the two credit cards that he had in his wallet.

Seeking help, Donald went to his local bank. His banker ran a credit check and handed Donald 13 pages of accounts and purchases. “So much put in my name I had nothing to do with!” Donald saw that he had multiple addresses listed in California. He contacted his stepson, who assured him “everything is going fine.”

Donald put a “fraud alert” on his credit, but an angry Tyler contacted him, telling him to remove the “fraud alert” since it was interfering with the important real estate deal. Tyler also caused his parents’ home phone to be disconnected to prevent creditors from talking to the real Donald Chaffee.

Donald’s alarm about this situation consumed him night and day. “It was nonstop, ongoing.” He was so distracted and nervous that he started missing days at work. Donald said he worked with molten metal, and a lack of concentration could mean “loss of a limb.” Eventually, he got fired from the job where he had worked for 20 years. Now the 62-year-old man is unemployed.

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"Use his good credit rating?" Riiight! Abuse it and trash it is more like it. Some folks are just too dumb to make it through life. This poor slob was a sitting duck, and now he's a nearly dead one.

I knew Tyler about 10 years ago. He told me his great grandmother Mimi raised him in Boston for the first 5 years of his life because his Mom got pregnant to a guy and wasn't ready to raise a child. He claimed that when he was 5, his Mom wanted him back. In fact, I used to have her high school photo hanging in my bedroom, but then when we broke up he had it. He told me his step dad was emotionally abusive and some other things...... I never knew what was true or not. While I was with him, Tyler told me he had borrowed $5,000 from another Penn State student at the main campus (which is where we met). She was an ex girlfriend and he used the money to buy a car....it was like a gold Camry. I helped him take out a loan to pay her back and I think he only gave her a couple hundred of the $5,000 we took out...and I ended up paying on. I don't think she ever got her money back and I felt stupid for not handing it to her directly...but I wanted HIM to do it so he had some dignity paying her back and it wasn't like I was treating him like a child. I also trusted him. Her name is Titinun and that was in 2001 and 2002. I don't know her last name....he said she was from Thialand. I saw her from a distance at a movie theater once and she was pretty. I think she really needed the money...I thought she once even tried to take him to court for it there in Centre County, PA. Tyler was a liar and scammy when I knew him but then he began working really hard and I thought he had changed and was on the path to doing good things. I thought he turned his life around....it is very sad he didn't. The last time I was in contact with him was about 2005, and I thought that he was really happy and settling down and had a good career etc. But that was long distance via email by then.....so he could say anything and I wouldn't know the truth. I feel terrible for him...that he was so currupt and stupid to ruin his life like this. Such a waste. He can be charming, funny, romantic and should have used his intelligence to do something good in the world.

This story reminds me of what John Moores did to the city of San Diego...but of course Moores got away with it.


  1. Moores conned San Diego into using its good credit to engage in land speculation. The city issued municipal bonds, in violation of SEC regulations, and lost its credit rating as a result.

  2. Moores used loans taken out in San Diego's name to build his money losing ballpark...the team didn't pay more than symbolic rent. Now taxpayers on on the hook for $15 million a year until 2038.

  3. Moores used CCDC influence and money to cheaply acquire downtown land, which he flipped as soon as he could. Some of those properties which he enriched himself with are now in foreclosure.

  4. Moores openly bribed at least one member of the city council, who resigned in disgrace after accepting "illegal gifts"...but Moores was never charged.

  5. Moores broke the MOU with the city repeatedly, building condos instead of hotels and offices as promised. Those condos are now largely vacant, underwater, and un-sellable.

If only the District Attorney's office would prosecute John Moores as we see this "Tyler Adams" being prosecuted...both are obvious sociopaths, uncaring about the destruction they brought down on their victims.

Moores stole money from everyone in the City of San Diego, and his criminal acts set in motion the chain of events (underfunding pensions, overpromising benefits) that has left the city in long term financial distress.

We are all like the step-father in this story, ripped-off because we trusted someone we thought was close to us. Moores used the Padres to worm his way into San Diego, and then he coldly stole hundreds of millions.

It's long past time to prosecute John Moores.


Fred Williams

For more details of how John Moores worked his criminal enterprise in San Diego, read "Paradise Plundered".

How this massive fraud on every tax payer of San Diego cannot be prosecuted escapes me...

What I would like to know is WHO ON EARTH taught Tyler to make fake ID's or gave them to him. I knew him 10 years ago and only ever saw a couple ID's...and they were all with his "Tyler Adams" name on them. HOW does a person get a bunch of ID cards that fool people?! Why? So strange and sad. I knew he had three names...but he explained them to me and his explanations made sense. Kevin Michael Schoolcraft. Kevin Michael. Tyler Adams. There was one time I found out he told someone his name was Austin Hamilton and I thought that was weird......but I never saw ID cards with any name but Tyler Adams.

Tyler Adams is truly an evil person all the way to his core. I was his cell mate for the better part of 4 months and there is nothing that will ever change him. I tried to help him and then he turned around and stabbed me in the back. I am blown away by his mental capacity to cause others harm. Prisons are built for people like him. I hope DA Anna Winn convicts him on all 56 counts and that the judge gives him the max, stack consecutive. Anything short of that would be a real miscarriage of justice.

So....what IS the status of this case? I have found online court dates but don't know what they are for. I see the next one is in May.

Seems to me there could be two sides to this story. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense that the guy could have bought properties and gotten credit in his Dad's name for two years without Dad knowing about it. They were all in on it no doubt.

As someone who knew Tyler for about 2 years (2001-2003 in person), he is slick. Erase the photo you see on this article out of your mind...this is an inmate look. He was a pretty boy before...well dressed, well mannered, smooth talking, charming, funny, smart....actually seemed like a hard worker. It is NOT out of the question to me that he duped his family for a couple years. Or even if they found out what he was doing after a shorter time, he probably came up with all kinds of explanations and run-around stories that just strung them along. And he is good at sob stories too. I could see how his parents could be deceived. WISHing for the best.... I would think they were nieve and trusting...not crooks. I would NOT blame them. Really. I don't know them...but I would NOT blame them. Tyler had the same attitude with me at one point...it was OK to take advantage of me cause he was smart enough to be manipulative/deceptive. He said so.

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