Newport man accused of stealing nearly $3M arrested in Panama

A Newport Beach man who prosecutors say ran a Ponzi scheme that stole nearly $3 million from investors has been extradited from Panama to face trial in Orange County.  

Thomas F. Tarbutton allegedly fled to Brazil in 2011 after charges were filed and a warrant was issued for his arrest, according to a statement by the Orange County district attorney’s office.

Tarbutton flew to Panama this month and was arrested by Panamanian authorities this week. He was returned to California on Tuesday.

According to prosecutors, starting in 2004, Tarbutton ran a real estate scheme in which investors were told their money would be used to provide loans to people buying properties. He then allegedly gave investors forged documents showing they held liens on properties and gave them fraudulent documents showing money from mortgage payments was being invested.

Tarbutton allegedly gave investors small interest payments to make them less inclined to investigate the scheme.

But when the real estate market collapsed, he stopped all payments, according to prosecutors.

Tarbutton, 54, is charged with 29 felonies including grand theft and forgery. He faces up to 30 years and eight months in state prison if convicted.

He is being held at Men’s Central Jail in Santa Ana and is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday.

Twitter: @PalomaEsquivel

Esquivel writes for Los Angeles Times.



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