News and Press Releases

Pair Attempted to Collect Millions From “Selling” Houses They Did Not Own

April 25, 2008

DAVID ALAN HAWKINS, 68, of Bellevue, Washington and HARRY SKEINS, JR., 72, an attorney from San Antonio, Texas, were sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle for Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud, and two counts of Wire Fraud. Both men were sentenced to 48 months in prison, three years of supervised release and $1.56 million in restitution. The men were convicted December 14, 2007, following a two week trial. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez said it was a very serious crime. “You cannot go stealing millions of dollars from a mortgage company and think no consequences will follow."

According to testimony at trial and records filed in the case, HAWKINS and SKEINS executed a scheme to take out loans on properties they did not own. HAWKINS, following two decades of fruitless litigation dating back to the savings and loan crisis of the late 1980's, filed phony liens on the homes of others, including liens against the homes of a retired appeals court judge and a retired bank executive. HAWKINS and SKEINS then invented a phony title insurance company to convince an Atlanta based lender that the liens were valid and that HAWKINS owned the properties. Using a straw buyer who pretended to be purchasing these properties, the men convinced the mortgage lender to wire $1.5 million to bank accounts associated with the scheme. Records in the case indicate HAWKINS and SKEINS planned to use a similar scheme to obtain more funds based on phony liens on another eight properties belonging to retired judges, lawyers, bank executives and prosecutors. The scheme was disclosed when one of the property owners confronted an appraiser who was on their property and informed them that HAWKINS had no legal interest in the property. The appraiser then called law enforcement with a concern he had been involved in something illegal.

At one point in the investigation, HAWKINS and SKEINS traveled to the lender’s offices in Atlanta to bolster their claims that the liens were legitimate. In a meeting, recorded by the FBI with the lenders permission, HAWKINS and SKEINS tried to convince the lender that the liens were valid and that their title insurance company is being lawfully activated. Both men were arrested on May 1, 2006.

In his sentencing memo, Assistant United States Attorney Vince Lombardi noted that SKEINS was motivated by “pure greed.... Mr. Skeins abused his position of trust as a lawyer to further the scheme. He engaged in behavior that any lawyer of his years and experience knew was unethical and shot through with prohibited conflicts of interest. He made direct misrepresentations to the lender, that he had to know were lies,” Lombardi wrote. As for HAWKINS, Lombardi argued that he was motivated not by greed but by his search for vengeance against those who he thought had wronged him. “Mr. Hawkins’ vindictiveness strikes at the very heart of our civil justice system and the rule of law,” Lombardi wrote in his sentencing memo.

Judge Martinez agreed that SKEINS was motivated by money saying, “It looks like the motive here was the most base motive of all: Greed....It was (SKEINS’) training and education that made the scheme happen.” As for HAWKINS, Judge Martinez said there is no question in his mind that HAWKINS has suffered mental health issues for years. “His failure to recognize what he was doing was unlawful has created many victims.... Because of his relentless quest... he has made victims of his spouse, his children and his grandchildren.” Judge Martinez also noted the damage the scheme did to the mortgage lender.

The case was investigated by the FBI, and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Vince Lombardi and Special Assistant United States Attorney Johanna Vanderlee. Ms. Vanderlee is an attorney with the Social Security Administration specially designated to prosecute fraud cases in federal court.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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