The Perp Walk Begins in L.A.
Ex-Huntington Beach Mayor Gets 37-Month Sentence in Real Estate Scam
"She was a darling of City Hall, a strong-minded mayor who rose to celebrity status in Huntington Beach. Pam Julien Houchen was as popular for her political ambition as she was for becoming a new mom in middle age, toting her triplets around town. Then, investigators say, she got too bold. And too greedy."
"On Monday, Houchen learned she would pay a steep price for taking part in a real estate scam that netted her thousands of dollars. She was sentenced to federal prison for more than three years and ordered to pay $140,000 in restitution."
"The 37-month sentence issued by U.S. District Judge David O. Carter in Santa Ana punctuates a swift fall from grace for a woman whose world began collapsing shortly after she was identified as one of nine suspects in the scheme to illicitly convert Huntington Beach apartment buildings to condominiums."
"Houchen, 49, was one of four defendants sentenced Monday in the scandal, which broke in 2004 after the city learned that as many as 120 apartment units had been illegally converted to condominiums without proper permits or modifications."
"Houchen had admitted to eight counts of mail and wire fraud in connection with the sale of two buildings for a total of $1.74 million.Houchen buried her face in her hands and sobbed into a tissue upon hearing her sentence. Her husband clenched his hands together and fought back tears. She left the courtroom before other defendants were sentenced. Outside, she and her husband embraced. They declined to comment."
"Emotions were high throughout the six-hour sentencing hearing. It began with Houchen in tears as her lawyer argued for home confinement so she could help her husband raise their 4-year-old daughters, and concluded after a couple who bought an illegal condo that was later condemned urged the judge to show no mercy."
"Renee and Scott Tarnow, who are suing Houchen, said they had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in construction and legal fees. They said their two daughters were put at risk by the hazardous conditions of their unit and that the court should take that into consideration."
"Carter said Houchen posed a "real conundrum" for him as he sought to balance her level of cooperation and contriteness with her betrayal of the public's trust. In the end, he told her, his sentence was actually lighter than he had thought he would issue. It was longer than the 30 months recommended by the prosecutor."
'"You're right at the top of the pyramid," he said, referring to where he ranked her culpability among all defendants. "Public officials will never be looked at the same. That's a stain on all of us."'
"Two others sentenced Monday were Stewart Title officer Harvey DuBose, who admitted taking bribes to facilitate title insurance but was rewarded by the court for his level of cooperation. He received a two-year term. Investor Jeffrey Crandall, convicted of selling seven illegal units, was sentenced to 41 months."
"Houchen and the three other defendants must begin their sentences by Nov. 6."