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Alleged Lake of the Pines con man facing new court date, charges

Campbell’s suicide letter asked for more money
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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An alleged Lake of the Pines conman already facing 78 felony counts is scheduled to be back in court in December, and could be looking at more charges. William Lawson Campbell, 64, is facing 26 counts of grand theft, 26 counts of selling securities without being qualified and 26 counts of unlawful sales of securities. The charges stem from Campbell allegedly selling phony investments to several of his Lake of the Pines neighbors. Campbell allegedly took over $650,000 from 50 victims, according to Sgt. Steve Tripp at the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office. Anna Ferguson, assistant district attorney for Nevada County, said her office is looking at adding additional felony charges to the list. “We anticipate adding at least another seven counts, because additional victims have indeed turned up,” Ferguson said. Campbell’s Oct. 28 felony conference was continued to 1 p.m. Dec. 2 in Nevada City, because Campbell was not in court, Ferguson said. Campbell was reportedly not in court because he attempted to commit suicide and was under a psychiatric hold as a potential danger to himself. “I think he has got a plan, doing this to plead insanity or something, I don’t know,” said Harry Lent III, a Lake of the Pines resident who said he lost $45,000 to Campbell. Lent said he was told Campbell slashed his wrists and might have died if his wife hadn’t found him. The Journal obtained a copy of the suicide note Campbell sent to several of his neighbors in Lake of the Pines. In the letter Campbell states his actions were always in the best interest of his clients, and he requests people give his wife, Betty, money to help her. In the letter Campbell also wrote his love for his wife was the one clear thing in his life. “I’m asking that you gather friends together and help her cope with this tragedy,” Campbell wrote of his impending suicide. “She is a wonderful, sweet and thoughtful person full of life. Please do what you can to help her through this time of sorrow … She will need comfort and funds to take (care) of all the many details necessary to move on. Because of my cancer, I was not allowed to leave much to her. Yes, I exercised poor judgment in many ways, but none of this was her doing … absolutely none. Please believe that, it’s important.” Lent said it was never clear to those who knew Campbell whether he actually had cancer or not. “He tried getting money from everybody over the years using that,” Lent said. “Nobody knew if he did (have cancer) or not.” Attempts to reach Campbell and his attorney, Greg Klein of Nevada City, were unsuccessful as of press time. Jeanie Zatkulak, of Bear River Web Design off Dry Creek Road, said she met with Campbell Aug. 23 to discuss her designing a website for the flea market he was trying to open on the John L. Sullivan property at Grass Valley Highway and Bell Road. Zatkulak set up the site, highway49sellersmarket.com, which is still active. She said Campbell paid her $100 for the website, but still owes her an additional $99. In a previous Journal report, John Sullivan said Campbell still owes him $1,000 for rental of the property for the failed flea market. Zatkulak said she has tried to send Campbell invoices at various addresses, but hasn’t had any luck contacting him. Campbell didn’t seem to be a con man, Zatkulak said. “I don’t know if he tried to appeal on a personal level to me,” she said. “He said he had a couple bouts with cancer.” The rest of the money for the website was due at the end of September, but Zatkulak said she doesn’t plan to file any type of lawsuit. “I don’t think I really intend to follow up and file anything … because it’s such a small amount,” she said. “The effort I would put into it is not worth the $99. I’m better off earning more money than chasing this guy who owes a lot more people a lot more money.” Steve DeMink, of DeMink Designs on Grass Valley Highway, said he made several signs for Campbell’s flea market, and Campbell still owes him $500 for the work. “He didn’t seem like that crooked of a guy,” DeMink said. “He was in my shop half a dozen times. I’m pretty good with people and their wishy-washy (natures) and he didn’t seem to have any of it.” DeMink said he constantly saw Campbell at the market site cleaning and getting it ready. “It seemed like his focus was trying to make the flea market work,” he said. DeMink said he doesn’t plan to file charges against Campbell for the money, because he thinks Campbell will eventually pay him. “I don’t think it was his intention (to rip people off with the flea market),” DeMink said. “I think he was trying to climb out from under the same rock everyone is being pressured with. I just don’t see him being a conniving individual. I think he’s an honest enough guy that I think I will get paid.” Bill Johnson, one of Campbell’s alleged victims, said he referred several people to Campbell, which got him in trouble because Campbell conned those people as well. Johnson said he lost thousands of dollars to Campbell. Johnson said when it comes to Campbell his stance is “what goes around comes around.” “I have nothing against him other than the fact that he used us, the outside world, to keep going,” Johnson said. “All he wanted to do was make everything look good for him.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com