Real Name: Ronald L. Rushton
Aliases: Ron Rushton
Wanted For: Fraud and Escape
Missing Since: November 10, 1988
Details: Forty-five-year-old Ron Rushton is wanted for swindling homeowners via a fraudulent real estate firm that would acquire title and supposedly retire the full mortgage for participants. Rushton advertised that he could help people whose real estate was in danger of foreclosure by acquiring the properties and assuming their mortgage payments.
Two victims of his scheme were Harriet and Jim Roberts, who lived in San Diego. In 1985, Harriet discovered that she had cancer. Around the same time, Jim was laid off. As a result, they were unable to afford their payments on their house. In desperation, they turned to Rushton's company that specialized in real estate law. At the time, the company held title to over $30 million in real estate.
Harriet learned about the company through its newspaper advertisements. One of Rushton's firms assumed title to their home, and the Roberts had to pay a reduced monthly rental payment to Rushton. He then promised to make the full mortgage payments to the bank. Harriet was worried that the company was not legitimate, but he assured her otherwise. After signing over her mortgage, she was elated. She had saved her credit rating and was still able to make her medical payments. Furthermore, they were able to stay in their home.
Six months later, Harriet received a surprise visit from representatives of the bank that held her mortgage. They received foreclosure papers and were told to leave their home within three days. Rushton had apparently not paid their mortgages. She tried to contact the foreclosure services, but was unsuccessful. Three days later, she and Jim had to leave their home and move into an apartment in the low-income district.
After receiving several complaints about Rushton's business practices, bankruptcy trustee Tom Tucker was called in to investigate. In June of 1985, Rushton's businesses were seized. Tucker discovered that in almost every case, Rushton had assumed the loans, collected the rent money, and skillfully avoided making any of his promise payments to the banks. As a result, he accumulated an illegal fortune.
A former employee recalled that at the peak of operation, the gross income ranged from $100,000 to $130,000 per month. This was from the rents on the properties. Instead of helping their customers, they were taking advantage of the situation.
Shortly after the takeover, Rushton left town. With him, he carried an unknown quantity of cash. Since Tucker's audit was still in progress, no charges were filed at the time. He fled to Reno, Nevada, where he began a lucrative credit card scam under many different assumed names. In December of 1987, the scam was uncovered and he was arrested. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years in prison. However, he escaped from a minimum security prison in Boron, California in November of 1988 and has not been seen since.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the April 26, 1989 episode.
Results: Captured. In San Francisco, an anonymous tip led investigators to stake out two low-rent motels. Rushton was arrested and taken to San Diego, where he stood trial for fraud and escape. He was sentenced to 110 years imprisonment. In addition, using records from his scam operation, Rushton was ordered to make restitution to all whom he had swindled. However, due to his low savings and limited means of legal income, the restitution is ongoing and seems unlikely it will be repaid in full.
Rushton was released from prison in 1994.
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