Career con man James Arthur Hogue pled guilty to theft by receiving, a class-3 felony, in San Miguel County Court Tuesday.
He was ordered to pay $2,800 in restitution to the Mountain Village Police to cover the cost of his extradition from Arizona in February of last year.
Hogue, suspected of stealing as many as 5,000 items from San Miguel County residents, was apprehended in February 2006 at a Barnes and Noble store in northwest Tucson, Ariz., after a fast-thinking clerk recognized him from his wanted poster and called police.
The arrest came roughly one month after a witness had alerted Mountain Village Police to a suspicious-seeming man hiding goods beneath a water tower at Trout Lake.
Responding officers recognized some of the items from their visit to woodworker Hogue’s San Bernardo home three days earlier in search of property reported missing by a former client following Hogue’s remodel of her Mountain Village condo.
“We found all this stuff just packed in his house,” Mountain Village Police Investigator Robert Walraven said of that first visit. “You name it – tools, oil paintings, antiques, chairs, a planer” – filled the small home and its several secret storage compartments. At the time of that first visit, however, “we didn’t know it was stolen.”
A records search revealed most of the goods in Hogue’s possession were the subject of theft reports from all over San Miguel County dating back to at least 2003.
Hogue was the subject of a 53-minute 2001 documentary, Con Man (that aired on Cinemax as recently as last year), produced byJesse Moss, who met Hogue when they both attended Palo Alto High School in 1985, 26-year-old Hogue masquerading as Jay Mitchell Huntsman, a self-taught 16-year-old orphan and track champion.
Over the next 20 years, Moss followed Hogue’s career conducting cons across the country, perhaps most notably at Princeton University, where school officials had him arrested in 1991, at age 31, after a Palo Alto classmate outed him as an impostor sophomore track star.
“He’s obviously a celebrity criminal,” San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters has said of Hogue, who has been the subject of lengthy profiles in The New Yorker and in various newspapers throughout his long career.
Hogue moved to the Telluride region soon after his 1999 release from jail in Aspen, where he served one year in jail for bicycle theft.
“I’m happy that he is taking responsibility,” Investigator Walraven said after Hogue pled guilty to theft by receiving, a class 3 felony that carries a sentence of four to 12 years, and a fine of anywhere from $3,000 to $750,000. “The fact that we have a guilty plea shows we had a strong case.”
Sentencing is scheduled for Thursday, May 17, at 3 p.m., in San Miguel County Court.