by Jennifer Berry
A La Cañada Flintridge businessman was sentenced last week to five years formal probation in exchange for pleading no contest to multiple felony grand theft charges and paying full restitution to eight automobile dealerships.
Fletcher Joseph Hull, 59, pleaded no contest to eight counts of grand theft of personal property May 5 in Van Nuys Superior Court. In addition to five years formal probation, Hull was sentenced to 500 hours of community service and is not allowed to be involved in automotive sales businesses in any capacity during his probationary period, said Deputy District Attorney Karen Rizzo.
Hull owned Fletcher Hull Leasing Inc. The California Department of Motor Vehicles revoked the firm's automotive sales license June 28 of last year.
According to a previous Valley Sun article, the state filed charges against Hull for cashing checks from eight car buyers without authorization during six weeks of the summer of 2003. Hull accepted the checks totaling $238,000, but checks he sent as payment for the vehicles to eight auto dealerships bounced.
Peter G. Kudrave purchased one of the vehicles in question from Hull in the summer of 2003. The longtime La Cañada resident said he had an established professional relationship with Hull, having purchased a previous vehicle from Hull with no problems.
"I knew no different. I had no reason to suspect anything being different," Kudrave said of the 2003 transaction. After receiving the keys to the new Jaguar, Kudrave and his family went on an extended vacation to Europe. They returned home to find a letter from the auto dealership that sold Hull the luxury vehicle, alleging Kudrave failed to fulfill signed contractual obligations by not paying the dealership for the $38,000 car.
"I never signed an agreement," Kudrave said. "They weren't my initials. It wasn't my signature."
The matter was settled out of court. Kudrave received full ownership of the car without having to pay a second time, but still remembers how it felt to be in that situation.
"He obviously knew what he was doing," Kudrave said of Hull. "We're a small community. We deal with each other in good faith. There's no place to hide in La Cañada."
Rizzo said Hull's reputation and the fact he paid full restitution to the dealerships prior to his plea affected the terms of his sentence.
"Mr. Hull had no previous record at the time of these events. He'd been a car broker in good standing for many years," she said. "That's the most unusual aspect of this case, that he made full restitution to the victims. Because of that, that put him in a different category than people who do not take full responsibility [for their actions].
"At his age he led a pretty middle class, blameless life until this happened, and we're really not sure what happened, why he felt compelled to do this," she said. "We don't know, but he did make full restitution and show remorse."
Hull's Pasadena attorney, Sylvan Daroca III, did not return several phone calls requesting comment.
In a separate case, Hull pleaded no contest Dec. 8 in Pasadena Superior Court to a misdemeanor charge of possession of child pornography. He was sentenced to three years non-reporting probation, required to register as a sex offender and enroll in counseling.