The out-building adjacent to the home Deborah and Douglas Tumlinson owned in Ramona was destroyed in the Witch Creek fire that occurred in San Diego County’s back-country in October 2007.
Unlike the other victims who filed claims against San Diego Gas & Electric, which acknowledged that the fire stemmed from sparks from some of its equipment during high winds, the Tumlinsons took a different approach.
Deborah Tumlinson convinced the Tumlinson’s family friend and trust attorney, Carter Johnston, to write a letter to New Jersey-based lender, U.S. Claims, advising the lender that they would be receiving a $2.49 million settlement from the wildfire and would be paid within 30 days. Johnston, who was disbarred for his false representations to U.S. Claims, also stated falsely that he had represented the Tumlinsons in the settlement. As a result, U.S. Claims and its president Darryl Levine made a loan to them for over $700,000 to buy a new house.
The Tumlinsons failed to repay the loan and failed to repay a second loan they received from Seaside Funding, a Carlsbad mortgage broker, for the new home they falsely claimed would be a rental property.
Deborah Tumlinson pleaded guilty in May 2016 to aiding and abetting in a wire fraud scheme and was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino to a year and a day in prison. The judge noted how her actions had caused great suffering to others, namely Darryl Levine, who was forced to sell his business in 2014.
Douglas Tumlinson, who actually signed many of the documents, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which dismissed the charges against him after his wife was sentenced.
Judge Sammartino ordered the couple to pay $1.8 million in restitution to U.S. Claims, although there is already a civil judgment against them, according to U.S. Claims attorney Pat Swan. Seaside Funding was made whole at the foreclosure auction.
Read the full article in the San Diego Tribune.
Read the press release of this case from the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher P. Tenorio.