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Lake of the Pines man owes $1,000 for canceled market

Crafter says Campbell didn’t appear to be con man
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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A Lake of the Pines man being charged with 78 felonies related to allegedly making phony investments for some of his neighbors owes automobile businessman John L. Sullivan $1,000 for a recent flea market that never got off the ground. He also allegedly took money from several local vendors, which was not returned. William Lawson Campbell, 64, was arrested Oct. 4 on 26 counts of grand theft, 26 counts of selling securities without being qualified and 26 counts of unlawful sales of securities, according to Sgt. Steve Tripp at the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office. Campbell allegedly took money from 50 victims, mostly in the Lake of the Pines community that sits just outside of Auburn, and told them he was investing it in various projects. Tripp said Campbell’s bank records show he was depositing the money in his own account. Attempts to reach Campbell at his Lake of the Pines home have been unsuccessful. According to Auburn resident and real estate broker Chris Blair on Aug. 1 Campbell opened up a flea market on the vacant John L. Sullivan property at Grass Valley Highway and Bell Road. He told Blair he wanted to hold the market on the weekends for a year or two. Blair said she sold crafts at the market, and that there was also another craft vendor, four people selling garage sale-type items, a hot dog vendor and a representative from Dish Network in attendance. Campbell told her he had lined up some farmers to come to the market during future weekends. Campbell held the market for three weekends before he canceled it, saying Sullivan no longer wanted it on his property, Blair said. “He was saying it was John L. Sullivan who canceled the contract,” she said. Sullivan said that while he did allow Campbell to hold the market, there was no contract. “There was never a contract, and as far as canceling, I did tell him to get off the property,” he said. Blair said she paid Campbell $40 for each day she participated in the market. Blair said she doesn’t believe the market was a scam, and it’s hard for her to see Campbell as a con man. “It was really interesting that this man didn’t have any of the normal (signs of having a lot of money),” Blair said. “(He) didn’t have a fancy car, didn’t have anything that would denote him having money, didn’t seem a smart enough person to be a con man. He didn’t exhibit anything like that. His wife didn’t have any (things indicating) money.” Sullivan said when Campbell contacted him through a real estate agent who is working with Sullivan to sell the Auburn property, he didn’t know anything about the investigation the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office was conducting. Sullivan said he simply thought he’d give Campbell a chance to start the market on a property that was already vacant. “Bill Campbell came to me about 90 days ago, and he saw my property up there on Highway 49, and he said, ‘That would be a great place to have a flea market,’” Sullivan said. “I said, ‘OK, here is what you do – you get your insurance policy and call my controller and give them all the information.” Campbell told Sullivan he had extensive experience with flea markets, including some in the Auburn area, Alameda and Sacramento. “In fact, I tell you what, he said he held two or three flea markets in the Auburn area … very successful flea markets,” Sullivan said. Sullivan said he told Campbell he could try out the market for two weekends as a trial run. Campbell was supposed to pay Sullivan $500 for each of those weekends. Campbell could only hold the flea market in the parking lot, not in the building on the property. Sullivan said he asked Campbell to give his controller an insurance policy. Campbell never supplied that policy. Campbell also never paid Sullivan the $1,000 he owed. Sullivan said Campbell asked him if he could use the building on the property too, so he could have access to the restrooms. Sullivan said no. Sullivan said his controller lives in Grass Valley and would drive by the site and saw signs for the market, but didn’t see any vendors, so Sullivan started wondering if the market was going on at all. When Sullivan asked Campbell if the market was going forward, Campbell said that he had already held one the previous weekend. “I didn’t really think he was an unsavory character,” Sullivan said. “He told me, ‘I have got 52 farmers lined up, and they will be there this weekend.” After Campbell’s endeavor seemed to be having trouble getting off the ground and Sullivan didn’t receive either money or insurance policy, Sullivan asked him to get off the property. Sullivan said since then he hasn’t heard from Campbell or anyone else involved in the market. The property is currently up for sale, and there are several interested buyers. Tripp said the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office was unaware of the market, and that Campbell could have been on the up and up with the business. “It could have been a legitimate business where he was trying to put a flea market together and there was no crime going on at all,” Tripp said. Blair said she isn’t concerned by the fact that she was paying Campbell to host a booth, but he wasn’t paying Sullivan. Blair said even though she thinks the site is the perfect spot for a flea market, Sullivan’s actions in shutting it down were perfectly understandable. “I think that makes sense,” she said. “If (Campbell) is not paying his bills, and he is not giving John L. Sullivan what he needs, I think it’s perfectly logical.” Lake of the Pines resident Harry Lent III, who said he lost $45,000 to Campbell during an investment scam, said he thinks the flea market was another attempt by Campbell to rip people off. “As far as a legitimate business, I doubt it, I really do,” Lent said. “Especially because of him not getting an insurance policy, that doesn’t surprise me, and him not paying the guy to rent the property for a couple weekends, that doesn’t surprise me at all. I’m surprised the guy is still out walking and taking money from people like that. (He’s) just doing anything he can to make a buck.” Campbell is scheduled for a felony conference at 1 p.m. Oct. 28 in Nevada County Superior Court. He is currently out of jail on a $20,000 bail. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ----------------------------------------------------- Campbell’s past investment issues In June 2001 the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, then the National Association of Securities Dealers, barred William Campbell, of Lake of the Pines, from selling investments. A disciplinary report prepared by the association and found on the regulatory authority’s website, states that Campbell was barred from working with any National Association of Securities Dealers member in any capacity. “Without admitting or denying the allegations, Campbell consented to the described sanction and to the entry of findings that he solicited and received $10,000 from a public customer to be invested in mutual funds and other securities through an investment club,” the report states. “The findings also stated that no investment club existed and, instead, Campbell deposited the funds into his personal bank account, converting some or all of it to his own use and benefit.”