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Redman Should Serve His Time

Marshall Redman got what he deserves. Last week, the 69-year-old developer who swindled as many as 2,500 buyers in an Antelope Valley land scam was sentenced to a year in jail and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.

Within hours of the sentencing, Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich blasted Redman’s punishment as too light. Antonovich speculated that Redman could end up serving no time in jail. That must not happen. Redman’s scam left thousands of mostly immigrant people penniless and nearly homeless. The desolate land he sold them remains dotted with shacks that have no electricity or running water.

Redman belongs in jail--or in one of Hi Vista’s dismal shanties. He must serve at least part of his sentence. Perhaps then he can be forgotten as lawyers and banks untangle his finances and struggle to compensate the families who got cheated. Redman’s assets went into receivership shortly after a 1996 series in The Times exposed his scam and the inexcusable lack of action by prosecutors who chose to do nothing as more and more families watched their dreams of homeownership disappear in the high desert windstorms.

Few victims have received any compensation as banks and investors tussle over Redman’s fortune. One court-appointed receiver allegedly misspent $1 million and fled to Australia. Top priority: Help the residents of Hi Vista. After the Times series, county officials permitted Redman’s victims to hook up to water lines and adopted rules to help prevent future scams.

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The reforms are an important safeguard and should make it more difficult for unscrupulous developers to swindle unsophisticated buyers. That’s one legacy of Redman’s scam. The other should be that con men caught preying on trusting buyers are treated like any other crook--and end up in jail.


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