Ponzi schemer Lull on lam after he skips sentencing


POSTED: Friday, May 15, 2009

A former Kauai man who admitted swindling people in Hawaii and on the mainland in a $30 million Ponzi scheme is a fugitive.

;[Preview]  Kauai Con Man Fugitive Found Dead

Washington state affiliates and family members confirmed that 60-year-old James Lull, a con man convicted of stealing roughly $30 million, was found dead after his white plunged off a cliff.

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James Lull failed to show up in federal court yesterday for sentencing.

His lawyer, federal public defender Peter Wolff, said Lull told him Wednesday that he would arrive in Hawaii from Washington at least an hour before his sentencing hearing. Wolff said he has not heard from Lull since.

“;I don't know where he is,”; Wolff said. “;I can't explain why he's not here.”;

U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway issued a bench warrant for Lull's arrest and rescheduled the hearing for next month.

Lull was facing 10 to 12 1/2 years in prison for wire fraud. He was also facing new allegations of hiding assets from the trustee handling his bankruptcy.

The court's pretrial services office sent Mollway a memo containing allegations that Lull had recent dealings in diamonds.

Lull was supposed to be sentenced last month, but Mollway rescheduled that hearing because the bankruptcy trustee and some of his victims said Lull was hiding valuable coins, expensive wines, pool cues and opals.

Two of his victims—Donnie and Mardi Maione—showed up for yesterday's hearing.

They said they gave Lull $75,000 in August 2006 for what was supposed to be a short-term loan. The husband and wife said they had no reason not to trust Lull, whom they had known since 1995.

They lived on the same street, and Donnie Maione said he purchased his first two homes with mortgages he obtained through Lull. At the time, Lull was Kauai branch manager of U.S. Financial Mortgage Corp. He said Lull even gave him short-term, unsecured loans so he could meet payroll for his contracting business.

Donnie Maione said he kept in frequent touch with Lull for three months after he gave him the $75,000, and at one of their meetings, he said, Lull pulled out a box containing more than 100 opals and asked him whether he wanted one for his wife. After that, he said, Lull disappeared, and the mortgage company told people Lull no longer worked there.