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Alleged con man’s home set for auction

Residents glad to see court case going forward
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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A Lake of the Pines man charged with 78 felonies for allegedly scamming some of his neighbors with phony investments is scheduled to lose his home at an auction Wednesday. William Lawson Campbell, who was 64 when he was arrested in October, is charged with 26 counts of grand theft, 26 counts of selling securities without being qualified and 26 counts of unlawful sales of securities. Campbell allegedly took over $650,000 from 50 victims, according to Sgt. Steve Tripp at the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office. Campbell is scheduled for a felony conference at 1 p.m. Thursday in Nevada City. In a previous Journal article, Campbell’s attorney, Greg Klein, of Nevada City, said a Nevada County Superior Court judge told him he would either have to change Campbell’s not guilty plea or set Campbell for a preliminary hearing on Thursday’s court date. “I can almost tell you for a fact that it’s going to get set for a prelim,” Klein said in the Dec. 8 article. According to a legal notice Campbell’s home on Inverness Way in Lake of the Pines is scheduled to be auctioned to the highest bidder at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday at the main entrance of the courthouse at 201 Church Street in Nevada City. According to the notice, Campbell and his wife, Betty, executed the deed of trust for the home on April 5, 2005, and now there is a debt of several hundred thousand dollars on the house. “The total amount of the unpaid balance of the obligation secured by the property to be sold and reasonable estimated costs, expenses and advances at the time of the initial publication of the Notice of Sale is $364,526.96,” the notice states. Harry Lent III, a Lake of the Pines resident who reportedly lost $45,000 to Campbell, said he doesn’t know where Campbell or his wife are currently living. Lent said when he was golfing recently he saw Campbell drive by and felt like he wanted to hit him with his golf club. Lent said he is pleased the court case is moving forward. “I’m glad something is finally happening,” he said. “It’s about darn time. I’m happy about that.” It’s not surprising that the house is being auctioned, Lent said. “It’s sad, but not unexpected,” he said. “With everything going on, with how many times that the house has gone delinquent in the association dues here at the lake, and the title going back and forth between him and Betty … it’s not unexpected.” Jim Beall, a Lake of the Pines resident who said he and his wife gave Campbell $170,000 to invest, some of which was recovered, said his hope is that Campbell’s court process will prevent any future crimes. “The whole purpose for us bringing forth the evidence is for him to not hurt any other victims,” Beall said. “The faster it’s prosecuted, the faster the message gets out. That’s what I wanted to see happen. I think moving along with this is important. People will benefit from discouraging him or other criminals from committing other crimes of this nature.” Richard Barber, a local financial adviser, said he knew Campbell well from serving with him on the board of directors for the Pinesmen, a fraternal organization in Lake of the Pines. “Bill was very good at weaving his way into organizations such as the Pinesmen, such as the tennis club, such as the bowling club,” Barber said. “He is a very likable person. He was always considered to be the go-to guy. So, he, I think through that, gained people’s trust and, through that, talked them into investing in his schemes. It’s really a sad story. Personally, I really liked the guy.” Barber said he was surprised how many people fell for Campbell’s alleged scams, but was not completely shocked when he found out about the charges, because Campbell was “always kind of a big-deal guy.” Barber said there are a couple things people should remember when they are thinking of getting involved in investments. “It seems that whenever you hear about a thing such as this, it invariably occurs with companies that are not well known – little boutique firms that are maybe just single broker offices,” he said. “(People should) stay with the nationally known names they are familiar with. It’s a very old adage, but it’s probably true: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Barber said he is also glad to see the court case going forward. “Too many people were hurt, and there were probably many more people who were taken in by him and have just remained silent,” he said. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com