Former Toledo City Council candidate, environmental activist, and law school graduate Richard VanLandingham was convicted yesterday of forging signatures on fraudulent documents and filing the bogus paperwork with the Lucas County recorder.
VanLandingham, 37, of 1326 Paxton St. entered into a plea agreement with Lucas County prosecutors to resolve indictments involving six charges that were filed against him in 2004 and 2005.
He pleaded no contest to one count each of tampering with records and forgery. Common Pleas Court Judge James Jensen accepted the pleas and found him guilty. VanLandingham will be sentenced Nov. 17.
A jury trial in the case was scheduled for Tuesday, but it was canceled when VanLandingham failed to appear in court. He was arrested later at Judge Jensen's request, and ordered held in the county jail in lieu of $750,000 bond. Judge Jensen denied a request from the defendant to modify the bond.
In a hearing earlier yesterday in Toledo Municipal Court, VanLandingham pleaded no contest to misdemeanor aggravated assault for an incident Oct. 17 when he threatened city code enforcement officer Sue Frederick.
Over the years, VanLandingham, a 2003 University of Toledo law school graduate, has had skirmishes with Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, area law enforcement, and other officials.
Those issues ranged from eminent domain proceedings that cleared the way for the DaimlerChrysler Jeep plant to his obligation for cleaning up debris outside of his house.
VanLandingham first gained a reputation as an environmentalist in 1996, when he chained himself to a bulldozer to protest the destruction of one of the city's last remaining wetlands.
In 2002, he led a challenge against the Toledo school board during a vote on a millage levy that raised money for new and expanded buildings.
The felony case in Common Pleas Court stemmed from phony paperwork he manufactured on a home computer to transfer ownership of 1405 Paxton from a woman to himself.
Andrew Lastra, a county assistant prosecutor, said the signature of the woman as well as the signature of a bank employee that was needed as a notary were signed by the defendant on the fraudulent document and filed with the recorder in July, 2004.
VanLandingham also prepared a land contract agreement in which the woman agreed to pay $23,000 for the property, and filed the fake document containing forged signatures with the recorder, Mr. Lastra said.
"He knew he was facilitating a fraud on the recorder's office," Mr. Lastra said.
The woman went to police when VanLandingham went to Toledo Municipal Court and tried to have her and the person living in the home evicted.
VanLandingham faces a maximum of six years in prison and $12,500 in fines on the two felony counts. The misdemeanor conviction carries a six month jail sentence. He will be sentenced Nov. 15 by Judge C. Allen McConnell for that offense.
VanLandingham was shot in December, 2004, outside an Eastgate Road apartment building, where he said he drove to retrieve a cell phone for a friend.
A Toledoan was indicted in July, 2005, on one count each of aggravated robbery and felonious assault. However, prosecutors dropped the charges because VanLandingham could not be located to testify.
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