By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Dean would later tell police that Parker and Gonzales had lured him there to talk about pending loan modifications. After being led to the back office, he was confronted by two men with guns. He said one was Weston and the other was Gustavo Canez, a liquor-store employee just off parole for assault with a firearm.
Dean said Weston pointed a gun at his temple and said, "I'm gonna kill you. You're going to die today."
"He'll do it," Canez warned. "You better do what he says."
Dean says Weston had him empty his pockets and strip down to his boxers, then demanded more money, as they kicked him and whipped him with an extension cord. He says Weston hit him on the back of the head with the gun, causing a gash. Then Parmelee came into the room.
"Kill him," she said. "He's the one that did this to us."
She also threatened to cut off his fingers with a paper cutter, and was serious enough about it to open up a one-inch cut on Dean's pinkie.
Garcia said that when he woke up, he had been stripped and tied up in a chair in the backroom. Weston and Canez were demanding his PIN numbers. Weston pointed a gun at him and demanded that he call someone to bring more money. Garcia was kicked, beaten and whipped with the extension cord. At some point, Garcia said that Gonzales hit him in the head with the wooden knuckles.
Brandishing a carving knife, Parmelee screamed, "Cut their balls off!"
According to Dean, Garcia told them he had already spent the Parmelee-Weston loan-fee money. But if they were released, they would process the modifications and make things right.
The two say that they were let go after six hours.
Neither man called the cops. Garcia drove off in his white BMW. Stranded, Dean called his cousin to come pick him up. His cousin called the police. Just why Gonzales hung around the scene with wooden knuckles in his pocket remains a mystery. His lawyer says it's because he is innocent.
Weston tells a different story of that night. He alleges that Dean and Garcia beat each other up, because each blamed the other for the collapse of their scam.
After hearing three days of testimony, however, a Burbank judge found enough evidence to order all five defendants — Weston, Parmelee, Gonzales, Parker and Canez — to stand trial for torture, robbery and assault. Weston's attorneys are trying to work out a deal with prosecutors that would send him to prison for five years. Parmelee is expected to be released soon and to accept a plea deal that would not require her to serve more time.
Considering the charges carry a maximum sentence of life, it's a bargain.
While Weston and Parmelee were behind bars, the invisible gears of the foreclosure process continued to turn. They got a delinquency notice on a property of theirs in Beverly Hills. They were $42,000 behind. In November, they were sued by J.P. Morgan, a formality on the way to foreclosure of their house. For now, it sits vacant.
In a jailhouse deposition in February, Parmelee said that all of her properties were in foreclosure."It's crazy," she said. "This economy is really bad. ... Everybody is out of business. Everybody is bankrupt. Everybody doesn't have any money, including Donald Trump."
Asked by the Weekly to account for the trail of financial destruction in his wake — the bankruptcies, the foreclosures, the unpaid bills — Weston argued, in essence, that this is how business is done. He was just playing by the rules that others have used to build their empires.
"I was always told that if you're not being sued, you're not doing anything in life," he says. "Look at Donald Trump. Same thing. Him and the bankruptcy court are on a first-name basis."
Another perspective comes from Daniel Weintraub, an attorney who represented Weston and Parmelee in bankruptcy court. He knew them as investors with aggressive goals for their portfolio — no different from legions of other speculators through the '00s.
"They were like so many people who thought tomorrow would never come," Weintraub says. "There are people who borrowed and borrowed and borrowed, and the banks loaned and loaned and loaned. And then the music stopped."
Weston's victims have a less charitable view. Many believe Weston should have been prosecuted for any of a series of frauds and forgeries. When he wasn't, it made him think he was untouchable.
"I believe he had that sense of invulnerability," says Julius Johnson, who represented Loudd in her civil case. "You do so much dirt and you are rewarded for it so handsomely that you think, 'There's nothing I can't get away with.'"
Garcia and Dean are still under investigation for loan-modification fraud. At the preliminary hearing in the torture case, Garcia considered invoking his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself. Then he changed his mind. He also filed a $10 million lawsuit against the five defendants.
In a brief interview outside court in January, he said he was getting out of the real estate business.
"I have nightmares about them beating me," he said, a large scar still visible on his forehead. "I'd rather work at McDonald's."
Dean offered limited cooperation with the police and did not testify. Shortly after the beating, he fled California. At last word, he was in Arizona.
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