Man Charged in Swindling Case Found Shot Dead
A businessman facing criminal charges for allegedly swindling South-Central Los Angeles residents out of nearly half a million dollars and the deeds to their homes was found shot to death over the weekend in the driveway of his Pacific Palisades home, authorities said Sunday.
Los Angeles police were looking for clues in the slaying of William E. Hankins Jr., 51, who was found by family members about 9 p.m. Friday in the affluent neighborhood.
“A person called our 911 operator and said his father has been shot,” a Fire Department spokesman said. Officials who responded declared Hankins dead at the scene from multiple gunshot wounds.
Police said they had no suspect and no motive in the killing.
No one answered the phone at Hankins’ home Sunday, and attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr., who has represented him, did not return calls.
Hankins had been facing trial on 18 felony counts of fraud, forgery and grand theft. He was also the target of dozens of civil suits, all related to his real estate business activities.
Hankins was indicted by the Los Angeles County Grand Jury in 1992 for allegedly swindling South-Central residents out of nearly $500,000 and the deeds to their homes.
At the time of Hankins’ arrest, Cochran defended his client’s property transactions as legitimate.
But former Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert M. Youngdahl, who as a prosecutor first brought charges against Hankins, said the businessman preyed on financially troubled homeowners who, faced with foreclosure, turned to him for help. Instead of assistance, Hankins persuaded the homeowners to sign stacks of papers, including one that transferred ownership of the property to him, Youngdahl said.
Officials would not comment on whether they suspected a link between Hankins’ business affairs and the killing.