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Former HGTV star slapped with $10 million fine and jail time for real estate fraud

In World
April 20, 2024

Back when mortgage rates and home prices were more reasonable and manageable, homeowners invested in fixer-upper properties and made them their own. Now these types of projects aren’t as popular. But in the early-to-mid-2010s, HGTV shows including Fixer Upper, Love It or List It, and Flip It to Win It were all the rage as viewers binge-watched dilapidated homes transform into dream properties.

But as it turns out, one former HGTV star’s house-flipping show was masking major real estate fraud. On Tuesday, Charles “Todd” Hill, was sentenced to four years in jail and ordered to pay back nearly $10 million to his victims following his conviction. Los Gatos, Calif.–based Hill, 58, was the star of HGTV show Flip It to Win It, which aired in 2013 and featured Hill and his team purchasing dilapidated homes and fixing them up. Hill then sold them for a profit.

“Some see the huge amount of money in Silicon Valley real estate as a business opportunity,” Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement. “Others, unfortunately, see it as a criminal opportunity—and we will hold those people strictly accountable.”

What did Hill do?

According to the indictment shared with Fortune, the accusations against Hill happened between 2012 and 2014, around the time his show (which lasted just one season) began. The indictment shows 10 counts of grand theft of personal property exceeding $950,000; three counts of embezzlement; and one count of diversion of construction funds. Hill could not be reached by Fortune to comment on the indictment, conviction, or sentencing.

Hill was convicted last year of the multiple fraud schemes, including scams that happened before his show aired. This included a Ponzi scheme with evidence showing that Hill had spent laundered money on a rented apartment in San Francisco, hotels, vacations, and luxury cars, according to a press release from the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. HGTV did not respond to requests for comment from Fortune ahead of publication.

“To hide the theft, he created false balance sheets and got loans using fraudulent information,” according to the district attorney’s office. In another case, Hill diverted construction money for personal use. But one of the strangest accounts came from an investor who had poured $250,000 into a property he wanted Hill to remodel.

Instead, during a tour of the home, the investor “found it to be a burnt-down shell with no work done on it.”

After the district attorney’s investigation, Hill was indicted in November 2019 and in September 2023 admitted his guilt and was convicted by plea of grand theft against all of his victims. He’ll have to pay restitution of more than $9.4 million and serve 10 years on probation.

Victims who spoke at Tuesday’s hearing said they’re still reeling from the financial and professional damages from the fraud, according to the district attorney’s office.

This story was originally featured on Fortune.com

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