Man in failed ranches deal charged with fraud in Denver |

Man in failed ranches deal charged with fraud in Denver

Jeremy Heiman

A Denver man who bounced two checks for $225,000 in deposit money on a ranch near Carbondale appears to have at least one more bad check problem.

John Courtney Hand, 38, is charged with felony check fraud in Adams County.

Adams County District Attorney Bob Grant said his office issued Hand a summons for “theft and fraud by check” for allegedly issuing a $32,000 bad check. That check was written to Truck Corral, a Commerce City dealership, for a 1998 Lincoln Navigator in the summer of 1999.

Hand is due in Adams County court for advisement Feb. 19. Check fraud in an amount over $15,000 is a class 3 felony, Grant said. For the Carbondale fiasco, Joe Hicks Real Estate and Auction Services, which would have brokered the deal, is not pressing charges. No land or money was lost, said Julie Somerville, associate broker with the firm.

Hand said yesterday that the Navigator charge is, in fact, valid, but his check wasn’t covered because of someone else’s broken promise. He said he was “brokering some cars” – that is, buying and reselling on request – and a woman who had promised to buy the Navigator failed to pay him.

“She never ponied up any of the money,” Hand said.

A Denver-area source who didn’t want to be identified said Hand applied for and received as many as 10 auto loans from a credit union within a few months in 1999. The source said he thought Hand was involved in a scheme to rent the cars to other people for more than the cost of the loans.

“The guy was buying cars right and left,” the source said.

Hand outbid the competition to purchase the R. W. Laurence Ranch, a 1,810-acre spread not far from CMC’s Spring Valley Campus, in a Nov. 11 estate auction. Hand signed a contract to purchase the property, but the deal fell through when his earnest checks to the auction firm failed to clear.

He cited the failure of a backer, Rommel D. Toombs of Denver and Lakehurst, N.J., to come through with funds for the purchase. But Toombs claimed that Hand forged his signature on a real estate contract and has said he intends to press forgery charges.

Hand had also signed a contract to buy the 1,925-acre Gould Ranch across the road from the southern section of the Laurence Ranch. But that deal collapsed when the earnest money also failed to arrive.

Frank X. Taverna, a real estate broker for Mason and Morse, was handling the Gould Ranch deal.

“He basically fell out of contract,” Taverna said. “He was to provide earnest money three days after signing the contract.” The $100,000 was to be wired to a Mason and Morse escrow account, but it never arrived.

The Gould Ranch is back on the market for the asking price of $8.5 million.

But Hand said Toombs torpedoed the Gould deal, too.

“I was the bird dog to find the parcels,” Hand said. He said Toombs had promised to put up the money for both purchases. Though Hand himself signed the contract to purchase the Gould Ranch, he said Toombs directed him to do so.

Hand says he has two new partners lined up, and he still wants to buy the ranches.

“I went into this with the proper integrity and intentions,” Hand said. “I will stick to my original deal.”

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