La Habra man charged with $5 million fraud becomes fugitive after missing court appearance

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LA HABRA — A La Habra man accused of swindling an elderly couple out of nearly $5 million is being sought as a fugitive after skipping a hearing, authorities said.
John Arthur Walthall, 55, failed to show up for a hearing in his case on June 27, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said in a written statement.
FBI agents arrested him on suspicion of multiple counts of wire fraud in 2009 in connection with the alleged scam, officials said.
“The victims, both of whom were in their late 80s, gave Walthall more than $4.7 million dollars to invest in technology aimed at finding gold in abandoned mines,” Eimiller said.
“Walthall allegedly told the elderly couple that he had invested more than $3 million of his own money in more than a decade worth of research in the gold extraction process,” she added.
The vast majority of the money did not go into investments for the couple, however, authorities allege.
Instead, he’s accused of using the money for his own investments and expenses. According to the FBI, Walthall used the victims’ money to buy gold, pay alimony and child support payments for four children, pay rent and other expenses and buy luxury items.
In addition, Walthall allegedly used the couple’s money to buy two SUVs and a heavy-duty pickup truck, make a $10,000 payment to a film school and purchase a hyperbaric oxygen chamber worth about $60,000, Eimiller said.
When arrested, FBI agents found $500,000 worth of gold coins under the bed of his La Habra home.
Walthall is scheduled for trial Sept. 13.
He was ordered to appear in court June 27th for a hearing after investigators determined he was exaggerating a medical condition to delay his trial, officials said. When he didn’t show up for the hearing, the FBI labeled him a fugitive.
Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI at 888-226-8443.

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