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Ex-Fugitive Sentenced--and Married

October 14, 1995|LESLIE BERGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A former fast-lane entrepreneur convicted of taking part in an intricate, $1.5-million insurance scheme based on a murder was sentenced Friday to 25 years to life in state prison--just minutes after he was married in the judge's chambers.

Exactly who performed the private civil ceremony and who John Barrett Hawkins took as his bride remained a mystery.

The nuptials were disclosed when Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Paul G. Flynn announced from the bench that Hawkins' sentencing would be delayed slightly because of his marriage. No further information was given.

"I wasn't invited," sniffed Deputy Dist. Atty. Albert H. MacKenzie, who won convictions against Hawkins and his business partner in an Ohio clothing manufacturing firm, Melvin Eugene Hanson, as well as a Harvard-educated Glendale neurosurgeon, Richard Pryde Boggs.

"I wasn't invited," echoed Hawkins' defense lawyer, Joan Whiteside Green, who did note that Hawkins was wearing a sports coat and slacks Friday rather than the usual jail garb.

Hawkins, 32, was convicted last summer of conspiracy to commit murder, insurance fraud and grand theft in connection with the 1988 death of Ellis Henry Greene, a North Hollywood bookkeeper whose corpse was falsely identified by Boggs as that of Hanson, in a scheme to collect on Hanson's life-insurance policy.

The subject of a three-year, international manhunt, Hawkins was arrested in August, 1991, off the coast of Italy in his bright red sailboat, the Carpe Diem (Latin for "Seize the Day").

But the former Studio 54 bartender was never found guilty of actually participating in Greene's slaying, and the murder charge against him was officially dismissed Friday, his attorney said.

Throughout the case, authorities charged that Hawkins and Hanson, 53, planned a nearly perfect insurance scam and recruited the medical help of Boggs, who "had the ability to kill someone and make it appear as if it was a natural death."

First, Hanson named his young business partner in their Just Sweats clothing chain as executor of his will and its sole beneficiary, and the two began hinting to friends, lawyers and associates that Hanson was dying of AIDS.

Then Hanson and Boggs targeted victim Greene, picking him up in a gay bar, luring him back to Boggs' office, and suffocating him after rendering him helpless with a stun gun, the state's case alleged.

Hawkins claimed Greene's body, identified it as that of Hanson, and quickly had it cremated. He then claimed the proceeds from Hanson's life-insurance policy, while Hanson himself underwent extensive plastic surgery.

The scheme was exposed several weeks later when an insurance company investigator realized the fingerprint taken from the corpse did not match Hanson's prints on file with the state's Department of Motor Vehicles.

Hanson was arrested in 1989 at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, headed for Mexico and carrying a book on how to create a new identity.

Like Hawkins, he maintained he had nothing to do with Greene's death but had paid Boggs $50,000 to supply the corpse. Nonetheless, he was convicted in August of suffocating Greene as well as faking his own death. Last month, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Boggs, who was tried in 1990 and has exhausted his appeals, was similarly convicted of murder and insurance fraud and is serving a life prison sentence. He, too, had denied killing anyone and said he only obtained Greene's body and helped in the insurance swindle when Hanson threatened to reveal he was gay.

Hawkins was the only one of the three to elude conviction for murder. He will be credited with 1,535 days toward his prison sentence because of his time in County Jail and good behavior, MacKenzie said.

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