Convicted con-man Euell Ryles was sentenced to nine years behind bars for defrauding 15 Lompoc residents of $50,000 in total by falsely presenting himself as an attorney and pressuring them to pay for services not rendered. Described by one victim as a cross between a used car salesman and a preacher, Ryles ran the Law Intake Corporation in Lompoc, which like We the People, offered private citizens the necessary legal forms to pursue their own legal actions. But according to prosecuting attorney John McKinnon, now running for judge, Ryles would frighten clients into thinking they faced dire consequences if they did not retain his services, for which he charged up to $375 an hour. When they claimed lack of funds, he would pressure them to sell their car.
Typically, McKinnon said Ryles preyed upon the poor, the mentally ill, and immigrants. He secured $13,000 from one man-to whom he boasted of his special connections with Immigration officials-by promising to bring his entire family up from Mexico. Flamboyant and audacious, Ryles-who was ordained as a Baptist minister under questionable circumstances in Louisiana-failed to disclose previous larceny and burglary convictions when seeking county permits to open his law center. Ryles ran a sober living center in Lompoc-which he represented as a full-fledged detox facility-and had made moves toward starting a guard dog security company in Montecito. He also ran a nonprofit that provided children with helicopter rides at the same time that he was taking classes to obtain his helicopter pilot’s license.
McKinnon says Ryles has resisted all entreaties to pay his victims’ back. In court, Ryles denied ever representing himself as an attorney. Instead, he said he presented himself as an attorney broker. In one case, Ryles did, in fact, farm out work to a south coast attorney, whom he paid $1,000 for work the client was billed $5,000. McKinnon said he hopes that Ryles’s wife, Linda, who was convicted as well, will make restitution before her sentencing hearing in two weeks.