A 58-year-old Newport Beach man who eluded authorities for two years before being arrested was sentenced Friday to more than 34 years in prison for stealing about $3 million in a real estate fraud Ponzi scheme.
Thomas Franklin Tarbutton was convicted Jan. 20, 2016, of 40 felony counts, including grand theft and securities fraud, involving 11 victims.
Tarbutton was extradited to Orange County in December 2013 following his detention by Panamanian authorities as he attempted to fly from Brazil, where he was living, to Costa Rica, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Pete Pierce.
From 2004 through 2010, Tarbutton operated Irvine-based Villa Capital Inc., soliciting money from private investors for clients looking for loans from non-bank lenders, Pierce said.
The investors thought they were funding mortgages that would yield quick profits with a short turnaround, but in some cases the loans fell through and Tarbutton pocketed the money, Pierce said.
Some investors were given forged documents, making them believe the loans were guaranteed so that even if the borrower defaulted, they would get the property as security, Pierce said.
Tarbutton gave investors small interest payments from their initial investments to hide that the loans had not been repaid, the prosecutor said.
When the real estate market imploded, Tarbutton stopped all payments, Pierce said.
–City News Service