A few months ago, according to court testimony, former Newport Beach businessman John Tyler Hancock VI was living a high life worthy of a segment on TV's "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous."
Claiming to be a direct descendant of Declaration of Independence signer John Hancock, he rented a deluxe home in a development called Starwood, an exclusive, gated enclave overlooking Aspen, Colo., according to the Pitkin County Sheriff's Department.
In January, on his 40th birthday, he threw a bash for 300 guests at Andre's, a glitzy Aspen discotheque. Hancock arrived with a flourish, wearing a white scarf and sporting a woman on each arm. When a society columnist asked where he was seated, he pointed: "There are five beautiful ladies up there--that's my booth."
On Wednesday, Hancock was headed, temporarily anyway, for another exclusive, gated enclave: Terminal Island federal prison.
Earlier in the day, FBI agents arrested him at an Irvine hotel on felony charges of mail and wire fraud. Hancock, 40, was accused of diverting $2.5 million in money he borrowed from four financial institutions, including General Electric Credit Corp. and ITT Credit Finance Co., according to a federal grand jury indictment unsealed late Wednesday.
He told the lenders that he needed the money to buy telephone equipment for his Newport Beach telephone answering company, but the indictment accuses him of spending the money on himself.
"Instead of purchasing phone systems, he pocketed the money," said Asst. U.S. Atty. Dean Dunlavey at a bail hearing in Los Angeles federal court.'
Dunlavey presented U.S. Magistrate John R. Kronenberg with a copy of the society column written about Hancock's birthday party.
"It appears the money was going to pay for an extravagant life style and to surround the defendant with beautiful women," Dunlavey said.
Although the prosecutor asked that Hancock be held on $1 million bail, Kronenberg set it at $100,000 and ordered Hancock to return to court Monday.
Yolanda M. Barrera, Hancock's court-appointed attorney, disputed the government's allegations, saying although Hancock was head of American Communications Network Inc., several other people were involved in the business. Hancock's former wife, Sandralee Perry, was listed as president, according to the indictment.
Barrera said the company's creditors forced it into involuntary bankruptcy in September, 1985.
In recent months, Hancock was operating a business called "Aspen Lifestyles Inc." which provided consulting services to the "elite." Barrera later was unable to specify what services Hancock had provided but said that his lavish birthday party was thrown, in part, to attract clients.
But while Hancock portrayed himself as a socially connected person, his lawyer outlined previous brushes with the law.
Barerra said Hancock had two prior convictions, both in 1977. One was a conviction for assault, stemming from a "marital dispute." The other involved a federal price-fixing charge; she did not elaborate.
Dressed in blue jeans, running shoes and a yellow-printed shirt, the stocky, silver-bearded Hancock declined to comment after the hearing. He was escorted from the courtroom by the two FBI agents who arrested him.
According to Pitkin County Dep. Sheriff Bruce Benjamin, Hancock is fairly well known in Aspen. Earlier this year, Benjamin said Hancock was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. His driver's license was suspended.
Deputies subsequently issued him a ticket for driving without a license, Benjamin said.
"We last wrote him a traffic ticket a couple of weeks ago," he said.
On Sept. 2, Hancock moved out of the Starwood house after being evicted, according to the landlord, John Ginn.
"He was three months behind in his rent," said Ginn, an Aspen businessman. Ginn said he rented the house to Hancock a year ago last May. At one point, Hancock told Ginn he was interested in buying the house, but nothing came of it.
Ginn said Hancock told people in Aspen that he had once owned a restaurant.
The walls of the Starwood house were decorated with photographs of Hancock posing with various celebrities and politicians, Ginn said.
Hancock operated the "Aspen Lifestyles" business out of the Starwood house. Ginn said about that business, "I don't known what they were up to."