Back in 2010, we blogged about Blair Christopher Hanloh being prosecuted in Orange County for illegally taking over, fixing and renting out homes he did not own.
That case, which alleged a $3.5 million fraud scheme, was later dropped, but the 49-year-old is back in court facing new charges associated with, as a prosecutor put it, "scam."
Hanloh, who was charged with grand theft in the 2010 case but now faces second-degree commercial burglary and multiple recording a false or forged instrument counts--all felonies--is quite a colorful character, with the Orange County Register's Tony Saavedra having described him as "a bankrupt businessman ... who ran his real estate operation from an Anaheim massage clinic."
The accused scammer made quite a splash in Anaheim, where police were called when a resident came home to discover "squatters" living there. The tenants handed cops court documents that indicated a quitclaim deed had been filed on the property.
That's what Hanloh is accused of doing: identifying five "distressed" homes in Anaheim, Dana Point and San Clemente facing or in foreclosure, filing the quitclaim deeds as if they had been abandoned, changing the locks and then renting them out.
"It's actually a scam, a con," Deputy District Attorney Pete Pierce told jurors when City News Service's Paul Anderson covered the trial's opening last week. "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."
Hanloh's attorney, Stacy Kelly of the Orange County Public Defender's Office, did not deny the client filed the quitclaims but did dispute it was done fraudulently, arguing control was taken over abandoned homes through a legal maneuver called adverse possession. Hanloh was portrayed as heroically undertaking "nuisance abatement."
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"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."
The defense attorney further contended that when Hanloh was confronted by the real homeowners in Anaheim Hills, he tried to resolve the issues, adding, "His battle is with the banks."
Some of the disputed homes were bank-owned, according to prosecutors. But others still had people in them, some of whom were negotiating with their lenders to stay in them. It seemed so unusual to have them dealing with perceived squatters that it sparked a police investigation and the resulting criminal charges that elevated this beyond a battle with banks.