69 Cal.App.2d 503, 2327, People v. Chait

Docket Nº:2327
Citation:69 Cal.App.2d 503, 159 P.2d 445
Opinion Judge:[10] Nourse
Party Name:People v. Chait
Attorney:[7] Cannon & Callister, David H. Cannon, Ben L. Blue, Maurice Gleason, Edward S. Cooper, John L. Fleming and John Boyce-Smith for Appellants. [8] Robert W. Kenny, Attorney General, David K. Lener, Deputy Attorney General, Ralph E. Hoyt, District Attorney, and Cecil Mosbacher, Assistant District A...
Case Date:June 08, 1945
Court:California Court of Appeals

Page 503

69 Cal.App.2d 503

159 P.2d 445

THE PEOPLE, Respondent,


CHASKEL CHAIT et al., Appellants.

Crim. No. 2327.

California Court of Appeal, First District, Second Division

June 8, 1945

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Cannon &amp Callister, David H. Cannon, Ben L. Blue, Maurice Gleason, Edward S. Cooper, John L. Fleming and John Boyce-Smith for Appellants. Robert W. Kenny, Attorney General, David K. Lener, Deputy Attorney General, Ralph E. Hoyt, District Attorney, and Cecil Mosbacher, Assistant District Attorney, for Respondent



The appellants appeal from judgments of conviction on all counts of an indictment containing 10 counts of grand theft, two counts of violation of section 18 of the Corporate Securities Act [Stats. 1917, p. 673, as amended; Deering's Gen. Laws, Act 3814], and one count of conspiracy (alleging overt acts committed in the course of the conspiracy to effect its object) to defraud persons of money and property by false promises with fraudulent intent not to perform such promises, a violation of Penal Code, section 182(4). They also appeal from the orders denying them a new trial and probation. The cause took more than 10 weeks in trial, the transcript of the evidence on file herein consists of 16 volumes, with a total of 5,481 pages of testimony. Each of the defendants was given 10 consecutive sentences on counts 1 to 10 and concurrent sentences on the remaining three counts.

The activities of the defendants upon which the charges in the indictment were based consisted in the sale to various individuals of fractional lots of land upon the representation that they were either proven oil lands, were located in a proven oil district, or that negotiations were then pending with major oil companies operating in the district, and that leases would

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be made with these companies by virtue of which the purchasers would receive large bonuses or royalties and a comfortable income.

The witnesses for the state had had dealings with Hoytt, with Williams, with Singer, with Buchbinder and with Weil, either singly or with two or more of the defendants. In 1938 Hoytt and his associates were selling small acreages of a tract of land in New Mexico called the Pajarito Grant. This land was of little value for any purpose but was represented by Hoytt and his agents as prospective oil land, in which over $100,000 had been spent in drilling operations. From 1938 through 1943 the appellants continued to sell tracts of land in the Pajarito Grant and in Kern, Tulare and Kings Counties in California. One or two of the appellants would call on a prospect, build up appellant Hoytt as a wealthy, educated oil man who had conducted many charities and was interested in helping the poor. The prospect would be sold a 1 1/2 or two-acre tract of land for many times its value, on the representation that the land was proven oil land and that Hoytt was negotiating for a lease with several major oil companies who would pay bonuses of several hundred dollars per acre, plus a royalty on oil produced. In truth no major oil companies were negotiating for the lease of any of these tracts during the time covered by the indictment. The buyer would later be approached by one or more of the appellants with the [159 P.2d 449] statement that the oil companies refused to lease unless the buyer owned a larger tract and had a deed; and that the owner must have paid the entire price in order to get a deed. Those who paid the price demanded were often given deeds to land other than that described in their purchase agreements without notice or explanation to the purchaser. The purchase agreements were in most cases on a form approved by the Real Estate Commissioner and had a report of the Real Estate Commissioner printed on the reverse of the form, stating that the land was being sold only for speculative purposes and that the report was not an approval or disapproval of prices charged. The buyers either did not read the report, or were told that it was a mere form, or that it was a state approval of the project. Some of the buyers were told that a syndicate was to be formed, of which Hoytt and his father were to be parties, and that the buyer on buying additional land would be let into the syndicate.

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As a part of their plan to deceive the prospective purchasers the defendants worked upon a uniform plan or formula, an important part of which was the creation of a picture of Hoytt as a man of high integrity, ability, and financial standing. A review of the evidence relating to these circumstances is fairly stated in respondent's brief, from which we quote in part:

"The victims were told that S.W. Hoytt was the son of an English father and Spanish mother; that he was born in Santa Clara Valley; that his father was a millionaire; that he was an only child and heir to his father's millions; that Hoytt was a geologist; a university graduate who spent his time in the oil fields; that he understood the oil business from the ground up; that he had drilled wells not only in California but in many places including a number of foreign countries; that he owned a number of producing oil wells in California; that he was constantly flying back and forth to Washington to advise government officials about oil conservation and to negotiate leases with major oil companies; that the firm of S.W. Hoytt Company was founded by S.W. Hoytt, Sr., who, now a man between 80 and 90 years of age, was still actively engaged in the oil business; and still doing business on the same corner where he had first established the company 50 years ago.

"In order to make aged victims think that Hoytt was particularly interested in elderly people and solicitous of their welfare, the prospective purchasers were told that appellant Hoytt was very devoted to his father; that he always spent the holidays with him even though it necessitated his crossing the continent to do so; that appellant Hoytt was a very generous and philanthropic man who contributed liberally to all charitable projects; that because of his wealth it was not necessary for him to work, but having retired once he decided to go back into the oil business and help out working people by offering them the opportunity to participate in the fabulous returns to be gained from these proven oil properties.

"Where the intended victim was an ardent member of a particular religious group, Hoytt and his confederates would frequently represent that they were devout members of the same faith. Thus, to a Seventh Day Adventist Hoytt and Singer represented themselves to be members of that church and represented that Hoytt's father was one of the leaders of

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that denomination in Los Angeles. To a Catholic Hoytt stated that he was a Catholic and that he had been to mass that morning. On one occasion he said he had dined with the Pope.

"The victims were also told that Hoytt was an unmarried man for the purpose of establishing a somewhat romantic relationship with his clients who were either widows or spinsters past middle age. If the client were too old to be interested in Hoytt personally she was told that she resembled Hoytt's mother and that was the reason he was taking a special interest in her welfare, and Hoytt asked some of his victims if he might call them 'mother.' To build up and foster this personal relationship victims were sent gifts, most often a purse which carried the suggestion that it would soon be filled with money obtained from the oil land. Such gifts at times were purportedly sent by Hoytt's father.

"The true facts concerning Hoytt's personal history were briefly these:

"He was born in Kiev, Russia, in 1894 or 1895 and was the youngest of ten children. His name was Chaskel Chait. His father, Aaron Chait, died in Kiev, Russia, in 1909 and never came to the United States. In 1912 Hoytt came to the United States with his mother and then took the name of Sam Hoit or Sam Hoytt. In August, 1942, he became an American citizen by naturalization [159 P.2d 450] and at that time the court authorized him to use the name of Sam W. Hoytt.

"Hoytt was not a geologist. He was not a university graduate and even had difficulty writing the English language. Hoytt did not come to California until 1931. He first worked as a real estate salesman for the Norins Realty Company selling Pajarito Grant lands and in 1933 worked for the appellant Williams who was operating as the Federal Realty and Development Company. Hoytt worked as a real estate salesman on various questionable promotional schemes until 1938 when he obtained a real estate broker's license, and began operating as the S.W. Hoytt Co. These various appellants and others then started working for him. In November, 1928, Hoytt married Lillian Epstein, to whom he was still married at the time he was indicted by the Grand Jury of Alameda County.

"The record shows that neither Hoytt nor any other of these appellants ever drilled an oil well and that Hoytt never owned an oil well in the State of California. There was no evidence that he had ever owned an oil well in any other

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place. The record further indicates that up to the time of the indictment Hoytt had no negotiations with any major oil company for a lease of any land owned by him in the State of California for a bonus of $300.00 or $1500.00 per acre or any other p‚rice, except that he did lease 2 1/2 acres to the Standard Oil Company for a period of three years for a total sum of $25.00. ... Representatives from each of these (the major oil) companies, with the exception of Standard Oil, testified that neither Hoytt nor any other one of these appellants ever had negotiations with his company for the leasing of any of the lands referred to in these proceedings at any price prior to the date of...

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