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11:13 PM Wed, Nov. 14th

Three take plea agreement in fraud case

A Prescott father and his two sons pleaded guilty Tuesday to scamming more than $1.66 million from 21 elderly victims between Jan. 2, 2002, and Jan. 31, 2005.

A plea agreement the three men arranged with the state means that the father, Joseph Hiland, in his mid-60s and suffering from several cognitive impairments, will not go to prison, his attorney said.

The sons, Travis and Tyson -who stood grim-faced during Tuesday's court proceedings - could face between 3 to 12.5 years in prison, although Yavapai Superior Court Judge Thomas Lindberg could sentence the men to probation.

All three men pleaded guilty to the same charges: felony theft and felony fraudulent schemes. The state dropped several other charges in the case.

The judge also could force the men to pay back the money they scammed in investment plans involving a shrimp farm, a resort hotel, timber, and other fraudulent schemes.

The Hilands worked with Stephen Cottrell to bilk the elderly investors - 10 of whom were in the courtroom but declined to speak on Tuesday - by receiving compensation in the amount of about 43 percent of the total investment without telling victims and also by continuing to sell investments after people started complaining, the attorneys explained.

The four men operated a business together called Senior Life Asset Management in Prescott. Investors never recovered their principal investment or the expected return on the investments. Their losses individually ranged from $5,000 to $393,000.

Cottrell has yet to go on trial, nor has the court set a trial date. Prosecutors asked the judge to defer sentencing the Hilands until after Cottrell's trial.

Lindberg agreed and set a tentative sentencing date of 3 p.m. on April 6 in his Division 6 Courtroom at the Yavapai County Courthouse in downtown Prescott.

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