A La Habra fugitive who was caught in a small Nevada town with a book titled How to Be Invisible has been convicted in federal court of evading arrest and defrauding an elderly couple out of $5.5 million in a gold mining scam. But John Arthur Walthall now faces new counts of obtaining a gun while he was on the lam, and conviction on that coupled with the other counts could have the 56-year-old practicing his invisibility act in the federal pen for 130 years.
The couple in their late 80s gave Walthall $4.7 million in 2007 to invest in technology aimed at finding gold in abandoned mines after he falsely told them he had researched the excavation process for 20 years, that he invested $3 million of his own money over a decade into a partnership called Advanced Recycling General Partners and that the couple would not only make a profit but be in a position to authorize all expenses.
Once Walthall secured their investment, he went about hiding it, transferring partnership funds to 27 separate bank accounts through which he spent money--without the couple's authorization--to pay off credit cards, loans on luxury cars and part of a $250,000 personal loan he received in 2005 from a former fiancée.
Walthall set up a fake bank account which purported to process payments for a "temporary secretarial services" company but actually used that money to make court-ordered alimony and child-support payments. He also used investment money to buy $2.5 million dollars worth of gold coins, gold bars, and gold dust without the approval of the investor couple.
Other items he fulfilled on his personal wish list included a hyperbaric oxygen chamber estimated to be worth $60,000 and thousands of dollars worth of exercise equipment, health supplements, and other personal health items. He paid his child's rent and $10,000 tuition for film school, as well as thousands of dollars on personal expenses for his family and friends.
When Walthall was arrested in 2009, FBI agents claimed to have found around $500,000 in gold coins under the bed of his La Habra residence. Agents also seized two Ford Excursions and a Ford 450 pick-up truck.
His trial had been scheduled to begin Sept. 13 in federal court in Santa Ana, but Walthall's attorneys filed motions delaying hearings due to a medical condition supposedly suffered by their client. However, while Walthall was out on bail, he was seen carrying out normal activities, including walking and dining out with friends.
On June 23, Judge Andrew J. Guilford revoked Walthall's bail and ordered him to appear in court for a hearing four days later. Walthall failed to appear, so Guilford issued a bench warrant for his arrest. The FBI put out his DMV photo and a description to catch him. Information came in that Walthall had fled the state.
He remained a fugitive for a short time but was arrested on July 26 in Mesquite, Nevada, where he was found with a gun, the How to Be Invisible book and a new identity: Art Langford. It is believed that he used that name while obtaining $10,000 from an Orange County businessman. Walthall is believed to have used part of that money to facilitate his escape, and the FBI fears he scammed others as Art Langford.
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Walthall was indicted on Nov. 2 on charges of receiving the gun while under indictment, and possessing a gun while a fugitive. Trial on the weapons charges is scheduled for Jan. 3.
His trial on the fraud and evading arrest counts lasted four weeks, with the jury in Santa Ana ultimately finding him guilty of four counts of wire fraud and one count of failure to appear. He is to be sentenced on those counts on March 5.