Just before Alan David Tikal was slapped with a 24-year federal prison sentence on Thursday, prosecutors and a judge reflected on some of his more than 1,000 victims throughout the United States who lost $5.8 million, including:
▪ At least 20 in Stanislaus County who fell prey to his phony foreclosure rescue pitch. Investigators with the District Attorney’s Office helped uncover the scam and The Modesto Bee outed Tikal before his arrest.
▪ Dozens who said they suffered anxiety, depression, humiliation, ulcers, insomnia and hopelessness. Many lost their homes, life savings and retirement security. A pregnant woman miscarried. One couple blamed their divorce on bickering made bitter by dealing with Tikal and his conspirators.
▪ “(My actions) may have contributed to taking a life,” Tikal acknowledged.
▪ His wife was prosecuted separately and will be sentenced in April. His mother-in-law “lost her home for her faith and trust in me,” Tikal acknowledged. His disabled sister, apparently bereft of resources, will be institutionalized, he said.
“You have to live with that,” U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley told Tikal, 46, formerly of Brentwood. “Any words you say can’t make it right.”
Tikal’s transformation has been remarkable. In an early 2011 webinar observed by The Bee, he had boasted, “If there’s a way for the bleeping banks to put me in jail, I would already be there,” trying to lure more clients anxious to keep their homes. The Northern San Joaquin Valley had become the epicenter of the mortgage meltdown, with thousands facing foreclosure as the value of homes plummeted below amounts still owed on loans.
He did not save a single home, authorities say. And after his first conviction in 2011, Tikal continued running the scheme from his jail cell, relying on a “vapor money” theory and having agents brashly tell homeowners they could get out of traditional loans because the government backs banks with “vague promises” and not gold.
When federal agents arrested Tikal, he asserted that federal courts had no jurisdiction over him. Before, during and after his trial in September, he maintained that the United States of America is merely a Delaware corporation and engaged in theories such as “the United States of America is not the same entity as the United States.”
Tikal was defiant until the moment of sentencing, demanding to serve as his own attorney, which Nunley allowed, and to wear street clothes to the proceeding. Instead, Tikal was led into the courtroom wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, shackled at the ankles.
“Same stale, unsupported arguments that lack any legal basis,” Nunley said, denying most requests.
After prosecutors read statements from 35 victims describing destroyed lives, Tikal pleaded for mercy.
In a lowered voice, he said he was not “unsympathetic or heartless to the damage my actions have caused” and claimed he was motivated by a “maybe completely stupid but good-faith attempt to defend rights.”
“I alone conceived of, executed and led this; everyone else followed my instructions,” he added.
Nunley responded, “You’re absolutely right; you were the mastermind. In my estimation, you’ve earned every month I sentence you to prison.”
Tikal called his company KATN and largely targeted people with limited English proficiency who were trying anything to save their homes. KATN is short for “kicking ass, taking names,” authorities revealed.
He and his agents told customers he was a private banker with access to an enormous line of credit and promised to reduce mortgage debt 75 percent. Tikal then used their money to charter airplanes and to buy cars and a $5,000 suit.
“You had the opportunity to stop, but you kept going, drawing in more and more people,” the judge said. Although murder victims’ survivors press on with “a hole in their heart,” Tikal’s “victims can’t rest and reside in the sanctity of homes that they in some cases spent their entire lives trying to purchase. They can’t get that back,” Nunley said.
Tikal will return to Nunley’s courtroom March 26 to hear the judge’s restitution order. Prosecutors say Tikal, who didn’t have enough money Thursday to pay $1,200 in court costs, should repay victims $3.7 million.
Another conspirator, Ray Kornfeld, previously received a five-year prison sentence.
The prosecution team was composed of local inspectors, state and federal prosecutors, the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program and the Internal Revenue Service.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2390.
January 2011 – In a review of property records, The Modesto Bee detects several local transactions involving Alan David Tikal and names him in a story warning readers about foreclosure rescue scams. His San Mateo attorney demands an immediate retraction, saying, “Your newspaper article defames my clients.” Her request is refused.
February 2011 – Prompted by media reports, Alameda County authorities arrest Tikal in Las Vegas on a fugitive warrant and charge him with 31 felony counts of fraud, grand theft and filing phony documents. A Ceres couple say they had paid Tikal $1,500 to save their home and were nearing a second payment of $1,200 before being alerted by The Bee’s coverage. The Bee determines that Tikal had property transactions with 20 families in Stanislaus County.
October 2011 –Tikal strikes a plea deal in which most counts are dropped in exchange for a state prison sentence; he serves nine months.
December 2011 – The Bee determines that two more local families have fallen victim to Tikal, who continued to run the scheme from his jail cell. The Bee confirms that federal authorities are investigating him.
September 2012 – Federal agents arrest Tikal.
September 2014 – After a one-day trial before a federal judge, Tikal is convicted on 11 counts of mail fraud and one count of money laundering. Prosecutors say he and collaborators swiped more than $5.8 million from more than 1,000 homeowners throughout the United States, without saving any of their homes.
Thursday – Tikal pleads for mercy from U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley, who compares his crimes to murder and sentences him to 24 years in federal prison.