25-year quest for revenge lands Bellevue man in prison
A Bellevue resident and his lawyer, who also was sentenced, tried to fraudulently sell homes of those he blamed for his loss in '80s S&L crisis.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A 25-year obsession over a lost fortune has landed a Bellevue man and his attorney in prison for a scheme to exact revenge by fraudulently selling the homes of the lawyers, judges and bankers they blamed.
David Alan Hawkins, 68, and San Antonio attorney Harry Skeins Jr., 72, both received four-year prison sentences and were each ordered to pay nearly $1.6 million in restitution Friday by U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez, who commented on how Hawkins' "relentless" quest to right a decades-old wrong and Skeins' greed melded into a sophisticated conspiracy that victimized dozens of innocent people.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Vince Lombardi said Hawkins' aim was simple: "revenge."
"It was about screwing — not to put too fine a point on it — the people who did him wrong all those years ago," Lombardi said.
Evidence presented at trial in December painted a nuanced — even pathetic — picture of Hawkins, a developer who lost his shirt when financing for a multimillion-dollar condominium project crumbled with the collapse of Queen City Savings and Loan during the nationwide S&L crisis of the 1980s.
To add insult to injury, Hawkins won a $3.5 million jury verdict against the S&L, only to have it stripped from him by a judge over a technicality — a move that outraged the jurors who had awarded him the money, according to court documents and news accounts from the time.
For years, Hawkins sought justice, using increasingly confrontational and bizarre tactics that included placing invalid liens on the homes of those he blamed — including bankers, judges and lawyers — and filing so many lawsuits that he was banned from filing documents in King County in 1994.
Beginning in 2006, when he met up with Skeins, the scheme turned more sophisticated — and illegal. The pair moved to sell the homes of the perceived wrongdoers, with Skeins and Hawkins pocketing the cash.
To do this, they executed what Martinez said was one of the most sophisticated fraud schemes he'd ever seen.
How it worked
Hawkins and Skeins set up a fake title-insurance company and convinced lenders that they held legitimate liens on the homes of their victims. An Atlanta lender gave them more than $1.5 million for the sale of homes belonging to a state appeals court judge and a bank executive whom the men had no interest in whatsoever.
Eight other illegal "sales" were in the works — including property belonging to other judges and lawyers — when the men were arrested in 2006 after a judge's wife questioned a real-estate appraiser who showed up at her home one day, according to court records.
Even so, Lombardi conceded that Hawkins "was a sympathetic figure, to some extent" — a man whose life and dreams were destroyed in the 1980s and who has spent every waking minute since then trying to right that wrong.
Hawkins' son, David Hawkins Jr., himself a lawyer, told the court Friday that his father, after years of disappointments, became "confused about the proper source of action" and that he was "heavily influenced by others" — including government and tax protesters.
Defense attorney Robert Goldsmith presented a diminished-mental-capacity defense for Hawkins at trial. While the jury convicted Hawkins, Martinez said there "was no question in my mind that Mr. Hawkins has suffered from mental issues for many years."
Skeins, however, had arrived on the scene only a few months before the scheme was hatched in 2006, and Martinez said Friday that it appears "the motive here is the most base motive of all — greed."
Still, Skeins presented a sentencing conundrum for the court. While Martinez said Skeins barely dodged serving additional time for contempt of court — the judge said his testimony at trial was "completely unbelievable" — Martinez also noted that Skeins' bad behavior here reflected just a few months of a "lengthy life span as a distinguished citizen and soldier."
Skeins is a family-law lawyer without a blemish on his career up to his arrest in 2006. Before that, he served 28 years in the Army, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He served two combat tours in Vietnam, where he won a Bronze Star and twice was awarded the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, according to court documents.
His lawyer, Howard Ratner, said Skeins had been depressed following a divorce and the loss of his ranch in Texas. At the time of the offense, he was living in a trailer.
Shortly after his arrest, Skeins wrote that he was "so ashamed I do not want to live anymore."
Martinez, in handing down the sentence Friday, said he was "satisfied that he is truly embarrassed and ashamed."
Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
(The Associated Press) Fuel rules get support A Consumer Federation of America survey conducted in April found that a large majority of Americans R...
Post a comment