Michael John Smith, 64, Laguna Hills, California, and Bruce Howard Furst, 57, Laguna Hills, California, have been charged with one felony count of grand theft with sentencing enhancements and allegations for loss over $100,000 and property damage over $200,000.
Smith, a professional sports commentator, will be arraigned on charges of stealing $735,000 from a retired school teacher, who has an inoperable brain tumor, by convincing the victim to use his paid-off home as collateral for a development investment project. Furst, a co-defendant is also charged in this case. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of five years in state prison. The People will be requesting $735,000 bail, to reflect the theft amount, at Smith’s arraignment.
Furst is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on Feb. 3, 2010, in Department C-55. He is out of custody on $25,000 bail over the objection of the People, who advocated for $735,000 bail to reflect the theft amount.
In January 2008, Smith is accused of repeatedly soliciting his long-time friend, William S., to invest in a development project in Dana Point, California, in which he and Furst were involved. The victim, a 65-year-old retired school teacher with an inoperable brain tumor, repeatedly refused. Smith is accused of eventually persuading William S. to put up his paid-off Dana Point, California, home as collateral for a $735,000 loan.
Smith and Furst are accused of inducing the victim to turn over his money by falsely representing to the victim that he would be the sole recipient of a promissory note, the loan was safe and 100 percent guaranteed, the loan would be for a maximum of two months, and that the defendants would sell their own homes before letting William S. lose his home.
The development project in Dana Point never materialized and Smith and Furst are accused of failing to repay the victim. They are accused of assuring William S. that they would repay him using money from another project, but failed to make the promised payment.
An escrow account was established for six months to pay the $7,200 monthly mortgage on William S.’s home. The defendants are accused of failing make any payments toward the victim’s mortgage after October 2008, despite their agreement with the victim to ensure his mortgage was paid. William S. contacted the Orange County, California, District Attorney’s Office in July 2009 to report the theft.
The victim, who cannot afford a $7,200 monthly mortgage, is expected to lose his home. The defendants have not put their homes up for sale, despite promising William S. that they would do so. Smith is a sports commentator for the Los Angeles Clippers.
Deputy District Attorney George McFetridge of the White Collar Crime Team is prosecuting this case.