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People v. Denman

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Second Division

July 12, 2013

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
EUGENE DENMAN, Defendant and Appellant.

Pub. Order 8/5/13 (See End of Opn.)

APPEAL from the Superior Court of Riverside County No. RIF10000870. Jean P. Leonard, Judge.

Rebecca P. Jones, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Julie L. Garland, Assistant Attorney General, Barry Carlton, and Sharon L. Rhodes, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

RICHLI, J.

Defendant Eugene Denman targeted nine distressed properties in Riverside County by filing quitclaim deeds transferring title to himself despite having no right of ownership or title in the properties. He also filed homestead declarations for each of the properties making false statements that he was living in them.

Defendant was found guilty of 20 counts of recording false documents and nine counts of perjury. For each property, the jury found true an enhancement that he damaged the property by clouding title and an additional aggravated white collar crime enhancement that the loss for two or more of the nine properties exceeded $500, 000.

Defendant now contends on appeal as follows:

1. There was insufficient evidence of his convictions pursuant to Penal Code section 115 for filing false documents for the quitclaim deeds he filed.[1]

2. There was insufficient evidence as a matter of law to prove the loss enhancements under section 12022.6, subdivision (a)(1) and (2).

3. There was insufficient evidence to prove the aggravated white collar crime enhancement that the losses to the victims exceeded $500, 000 under section 186.11, subdivision (a)(1).

4. He is entitled to additional conduct credits under former section 2933, subdivision (e)(1).

We find that defendant is entitled to additional conduct credits. In addition, the trial court erred by failing to impose a mandatory fine pursuant to section 186.11, subdivision (c). We otherwise affirm the judgment.[2]

I

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This case involves nine different properties located in Riverside County: 8044 Palm View Lane in Riverside (Palm View); 23160 Donahue Court in Riverside (Donahue);[3] 12968 Oak Dale Street in Corona (Oak Dale Street); 7267 Cobble Creek Drive in Corona (Cobble Creek); 5952 Larry Dean Street in Corona (Larry Dean); 6440 Harrow Street in Mira Loma (6440 Harrow); 13721 Amber View in Corona (Amber View); 13704 Star Ruby Avenue in Corona (Star Ruby); and 6443 Harrow Street in Mira Loma (6443 Harrow) (collectively, the properties).

Defendant, who represented himself, was found guilty by a jury of 20 counts of recording false documents (quitclaim deeds and homestead declarations) for the properties within the meaning of section 115 (counts 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28) and nine counts of perjury within the meaning of section 118 (counts 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 25, 29).[4] On counts 4, 5, and 6, the jury found true the enhancement that the value of the property taken exceeded $65, 000 within the meaning of section 12022.6, subdivision (a)(1). For all remaining counts, the jury found true the enhancement pursuant to section 12022.6, subdivision (a)(2) that the property value was over $200, 000. The jury also found the allegation true that defendant engaged in a pattern of related fraudulent conduct that involved the taking of more than $500, 000 within the meaning of section 186.11, subdivision (a)(2). In a bifurcated proceeding, defendant admitted serving a prior prison term (§ 667.5, subd. (b)).

Defendant was sentenced to 23 years 8 months in state prison. He was given credit for 502 actual days in custody and 250 days of conduct credit.

II

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

A. People’s Case-in-Chief

Riverside County District Attorney’s Office Investigator Dan Stack was assigned to investigate real estate fraud in Riverside County. He was contacted by the Riverside County Recorder’s office regarding suspicious quitclaim deeds and homestead declarations being filed by defendant. According to Investigator Stack, defendant searched the records at the Riverside County Recorder’s Office and looked for properties that were in default and for which foreclosure proceedings were being started.

Defendant filed a quitclaim deed and homestead declaration for Palm View on January 19, 2010. Brett Hupe purchased Palm View in late 2009. He fixed it up and found a buyer for the property. He was then informed that someone had moved into the property. The locks had been changed, and the house was full of furniture.

On January 25, 2010, Investigator Stack went to Palm View. The renters in the property had a rental agreement (for $2, 000 per month rent) signed with defendant for Palm View. Defendant came to Palm View and told Investigator Stack that he was claiming Palm View under adverse possession. Defendant was suing the owners of Palm View for quiet title of the property. He claimed to be the owner based on his recorded quitclaim deed and homestead declaration. The renters sued Hupe, and he settled with them for $3, 500. Hupe eventually sold the house for $400, 000.

Defendant filed a quitclaim deed and a homestead declaration for Donahue on January 19, 2010. Barbara Haynes had owned and lived in Donahue for 17 years. She had no idea that defendant had filed a quitclaim deed or homestead declaration against Donahue. According to Haynes, the address on the quitclaim deed and homestead declaration were erroneous because it listed the property in Riverside, when it was in Moreno Valley. However, the parcel number was correct.

Defendant filed quitclaim deeds and homestead declarations for Oak Dale and Cobble Creek on November 4, 2009.

Defendant also filed a quitclaim deed and homestead declaration for Larry Dean on November 4, 2009. In 2009, the owner of Larry Dean, Andres Serrano, could no longer afford the home, so he set up a short sale of the property. In November 2009, he found a buyer. Before it was sold, some people started moving into his home. Defendant got a restraining order to keep Serrano out of the property. Defendant told Serrano he had right to the property under section “1800” and emancipation. Serrano could not sell Larry Dean due to the cloud on the property. Serrano contacted Investigator Stack.

Defendant eventually signed a grant deed giving the property back to Serrano. Serrano was eventually able to get the ...


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