Lucius Foster, 89, was taken into custody immediately after he was convicted Wednesday of 30 misdemeanor charges -- 21 counts of grand theft and nine counts of contracting without a license. The six-man, six-woman jury deliberated for about three hours before reaching a verdict.
Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Gregory A. Dohi said Foster needed to be jailed immediately because he indicated during the trial that he had no intention of pulling his advertisements and planned to continue soliciting customers.
Foster was initially set to be sentenced today, but because of the length of time it takes to be booked and processed into the jail system, the hearing needed to be pushed back a day, court officials said.
Foster faces up to 25 1/2 years in county jail. He has said he wanted to be sentenced as soon as possible so he could serve his time and pay back the victims.
Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Don Cocek told jurors during the trial that Foster used war stories, blatant lies and personal charm to steal about $130,000 from prospective home buyers. After the verdict, he called Foster the "Bernie Madoff of Sherman Oaks."
Foster bilked at least 21 elderly or low-income residents out of $5,000 down payments on 2,000-square-foot modular homes made from 40-foot Chinese shipping containers
Cocek noted that seven more alleged victims have come forward in recent days. He said a decision had not been made on whether to try Foster in those cases.
Foster, who uses a walker to help him get around and who acted as his own attorney, insisted he was offering a creative solution to the affordable housing crisis when he promised to build low-cost modular homes out of cargo containers.
He told the jury his plan to build solar-heated three-bedroom, two-bath homes for less than $100,000 is "a whole new thing and people in the building department are against it."
He argued that his plan was not a scam but an affordable housing option.
Foster insisted he would eventually make good on the homes, which he advertised on Craigslist as costing $85,000 each.
Foster made contact with the alleged victims through his Modernistic Properties website, referrals from Realtors and postings on Craigslist, according to the City Attorney's Office.
Each victim gave Foster a deposit of $5,000 toward the home purchase and received a contract stating the house would be completed by a certain date, Cocek said. After the dates passed, Foster would give various excuses "but no house was ever built," he said.
Criminal charges were filed after the City Attorney's Office discovered that several civil judgments had been entered against Foster based on the complaints of victims unable to recover deposits for work never performed, officials said.
Foster said he remains estranged from his famous daughter.
"If you had a bad guy in your family, wouldn't you draw walls around
him?" Foster said before the verdict was announced.