Aspen Mountain shack squatter pleads guilty to felonies

James Hogue after his arrest last fall.

A notorious con man caught with a cache of stolen goods after being found living in an illegally built shack on Aspen Mountain pleaded guilty Monday to two felonies.

James Hogue, 57, faces between one and three years in prison after pleading guilty to felony theft between $2,000 and $5,000, felony possession of burglary tools and misdemeanor obstructing police officers.

“I had a wire cutter in my toolbox and it could be used for burglary,” Hogue admitted Monday.

Prosecutor Sarah Oszczakiewicz agreed not to object to Hogue receiving concurrent instead of consecutive sentences on the charges, as well as allowing him to possibly receive a probation-only sentence.

It remains unclear how long Hogue had been living in the shack on Shadow Mountain — the westernmost peak on Aspen Mountain — though police have speculated that it might have been as long as a year. He ducked out a window in September when an officer hiked up to the shack and knocked on the door.

He was arrested about two months later when Aspen Skiing Co. employees saw him trying to build another cabin in the same area. That led police to his Nissan Xterra SUV, where they found nearly $17,000 in cash as well as stolen ski jackets, ski pants and ledgers detailing an online eBay business.

Hogue also is wanted in Boulder County on two counts of misdemeanor theft.

Time magazine named Hogue one of the country’s “top 10 imposters” for posing as a high school student in Palo Alto, California, when he was 26, and a college student on track scholarship at Princeton when he was in his early 30s. He also was arrested for stealing $50,000 worth of jewels from a Harvard museum in the early 1990s, and then served time in a Colorado prison after pleading guilty to stealing items in the Telluride area.

Hogue is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

In other court news Monday:

• A 31-year-old Basalt man pleaded guilty Monday to felony conspiracy to commit menacing in relation to a series of violent, angry outbursts this fall.

Matthew Kornafel faces between a year and 18 months in prison for the plea, though the prosecutor in the case agreed not to object to a probation-only sentence, said Molly Owens, Kornafel’s public defender.

Kornafel was arrested Sept. 29 for standing in traffic on Highway 82 and Cemetery Lane while beating on a hotel shuttle and yelling obscenities at the driver. He was charged with disorderly conduct in that case.

Three days later he was arrested again after a confrontation at New York Pizza that included him stealing a $3 brownie and smearing it on the business’ glass door.

Approximately 10 days later, he was arrested again after threatening employees at a garage at the Aspen Business Center with a baseball bat.

Kornafel is set to be sentenced next month.


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