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Family given home after being duped

December 22, 2000

SILVERTHORNE, Colo. (AP) _ A family that was swindled out of its trailer home last spring has moved into its own condominium with help from neighbors who raised $6,000 for the down payment.

The mortgage middleman who stole $33,000 from the family was sentenced this week to 60 days in jail and ordered to pay back the money.

Julius Rico, 38, apologized in court and, despite declaring bankruptcy, brought $4,000 to court to begin the restitution, lawyer Paul Dunkelman said.

``I recognize that I made many mistakes and committed a felony,″ Rico told the judge. ``I want to make it right. I’m trying to get a little positive out of this incredible negative in my life.″

Regino Gutierrez, who works summers in construction and winters in property management, and Sylvia Gutierrez, a housekeeper for Keystone resort, had paid Rico $785 a month since 1997 after making a $7,000 down payment for a double-wide trailer in Silverthorne.

Rico learned that the trailer park would be closing and began pocketing the money instead of forwarding it to the mortgage company. He said he believed the family would not have the money to buy the trailer outright and move it.

The Gutierrezes, who are Mexican immigrants, and their two children lost their home in April.

``I think they were just taken advantage of because of their lack of knowledge of U.S. laws,″ Detective Rob Bone said.

The family closed on a $143,000 two-bedroom condominium in Dillon last week.

``Now they have a true home that they can call home for a long time,″ said Richard Betancourt, a real estate agent who brokered the deal. He added his $4,300 commission to the money raised.

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