Bradley Holcom, a former real estate developer in Somerton and San Luis, Ariz., was sentenced in federal court in San Diego to 121 months in prison for his role in a securities fraud case that allegedly cost his victims $50 million.
He is to surrender Jan. 12 to begin serving his sentence, with placement recommended in an Oregon prison to be near his elderly father. The court also recommended that he take part in a residential drug and alcohol abuse program. Following his incarceration, he is to be under supervised release for three years.
In the meantime, Holcom said he is working on restitution, noting that he still has an interest in 90 acres of farmland that he intends to turn over to a trustee to sell and compensate his victims.
Holcom said he is resigned to serving time in prison and expressed regret that people were harmed by his actions.
However, he did dispute the amount of private investors’ money SEC claimed was lost, saying it was closer to between $25 million and $28 million. The remainder, he said, was bank debt for various properties that were either foreclosed or deeded to the bank.
“I feel justice was served,” he said.
Some of his former investors, though, feel differently.
“Really heart-wrenching, people were almost crying,” Robert Spaulding, himself an investor who lost money, said of the court hearing during which a number of people testified.
Among them was J.C. Whitfield, who said she lost about a half-million dollars. That was money she was going to use to visit her children. “It definitely made an impact on my retirement … substantially.”
As one Holcom's last investors, she never received any interest payment from him, as some of his earlier investors did.
She’s pleased with the sentence that Holcom received, considering current laws, but feels white collar crime should result in stiffer punishment “for the damage they do to so many people.”
Frank Meram, too, lost money, enough that his family had to declare bankruptcy and lost their home.
“He hurt a lot of people,” Meram said of Holcom. “It had a tremendous impact on my family. He deserves every day he will spend in jail.”
Spaulding questioned why the authorities failed to step in sooner to stop the abuses. “Only when the SEC and FBI stepped in, belatedly, did Brad get charged, and that process took entirely too long. Justice delayed is justice denied.”
In May, Holcom had entered a guilty plea to one count of wire fraud in the criminal case brought against him in 2013 by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The year before, Holcom had been indicted by a grand jury charging him with eight counts of mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud and one count of securities. The indictment alleged that Holcom made false statements when he sold millions of dollars in promissory notes to investors to fund his projects in the Yuma area from 2004 through at least 2008, according to court documents.
A similar civilian complaint was filed against Holcom in June 2012 by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which had been on hold pending the criminal case. Holcom said he expects to reach a plea agreement with the commission in the near future on that case.
For several years, Holcom had been highly visible in southern Yuma County for his residential and commercial development projects and businesses that included Aztec Funding Inc., AB Builders and Realty Professionals.
Among his commercial projects were Jackson Square and Plaza Aztec in San Luis, and Somerton Valley Center and Plaza Las Palomas in Somerton. He also was involved in various residential subdivisions in both communities.
His downfall, Holcom said, was that he had grown too fast and purchased too much land with high-interest loan payments to pay for them. Then the real estate market collapsed and things began to erode for his business ventures.
“I was so optimistic,” he said. “It was an enormous high, then it came crashing down. I was trying to pay back dollars with pennies.”
He concluded: “There was no intent, no scheme to defraud senior investors.”
Joyce Lobeck can be reached at email@example.com.