Walter Mencken 1 p.m., May 1
Man accused of $3 million fraud admits 48 felonies
A man accused of using the identities of his mom and dad to run up more than $3 million in debt admitted all 48 felony counts in court yesterday. He could get up to 41 years in prison, according to plea deal paperwork.
Tyler Adams, now 40, was acting as his own attorney yesterday when he signed the deal, in San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse. Adams has been in custody for three years, and his case was set for trial this week.
Prosecutor Anna Winn said she has been adding more charges, since Adams was first arrested in 2009. “He’s given me more time to work on it,” the deputy district attorney said. Trial has been delayed partly because Adams has acted as his own attorney, on and off, over the years.
Adams reportedly used the identities of his elderly parents to buy properties in Rancho Santa Fe and La Jolla and downtown San Diego – while the retired couple lived modestly in a double-wide mobile home in Pennsylvania.
Adams grew up on the East Coast with the name Kevin Michael Schoolcraft, he moved to California when he was in his twenties. He changed his name when he moved West. Adams bought a tract home in Temecula, and told people that he worked in real estate.
In 2006, Tyler Adams talked his stepfather into letting him “borrow” his good credit rating, so Adams could buy acreage in San Diego’s North County, according to testimony. The stepfather said that was when all the trouble started; he testified in court more than a year ago.
It was six years ago when Adams reportedly told his stepfather, Donald Chaffee, that he had plenty of money, plenty of cash, but he needed his stepfather’s good credit to close a real estate deal. “He’s always trying to make deals,” remembered Donald Chaffee. The older man was surprised and flattered to find out that he had “a good credit rating,” he said he was not aware of this, and had never checked on such a thing. And then Tyler Adams said he needed power of attorney too, and a social security number, to make the big real estate deal happen. “And I provided all that,” admitted Donald Chaffee. The agreeable stepdad mailed a notarized power of attorney from Pennsylvania to Tyler Adams in January 2006.
Prosecutor Winn said the prodigal stepson purchased multiple properties using the identity of both parents, and collected more than $180,000 just in commissions because he posed as both loan officer and real estate agent. Tyler Adams never made any payments, and defaulted on at least five mortgages, Winn alleged. Adams collected rent from tenants at some of the properties and pocketed that money, according to the prosecutor. Adams also opened up credit lines to buy clothing and computers and to charge common living expenses such as groceries and gasoline, it is alleged.
The prosecutor said Adams forged his parents’ signatures on many documents. During a multi-day preliminary hearing in June 2011, the prosecutor showed the stepfather more than thirty documents, each time the man stated, “No, that is not my signature.”
By year 2007, the stepfather contacted authorities in California, he was trying to stop the fraudulent use of his identity to make purchases, he testified. The same year Tyler Adams fled to Hawaii, according to published reports. Tyler Adams lived in Hawaii through 2008, using the name Kevin Kennedy – and four other aliases. According to a local newspaper, a grand jury in Oahu eventually indicted the multi-named man for stealing $130,000 from Hawaiian banks. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin stated he registered four fake businesses and a charity in that state and then opened bank accounts for each. A Hawaiian prosecutor reportedly 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.”
Investigators in San Diego County got an arrest warrant for Tyler Adams in July 2009. After months searching, they caught him moving his belongings out of a property in La Jolla, and took him into custody November 2009.
During a period when Adams was acting as his own attorney, he filed a motion stating: “This was a monetary dispute civil matter amongst family members from the very beginning.”
Sentencing is set for November 15 before Superior Court Judge Robert Kearney, who took Adams’ guilty plea with “no deals from district attorney’s office, no deals from the court,” according to the paperwork.