A Sonora man affiliated with a local nonprofit organization called Pilots of Wishes is accused of fraudulently using his power of attorney to steal approximately $30,000 from his 68-year-old uncle and funneling the money through the foundation to pay for his expenses, projects and property mortgages.
Tuolumne County Assistant District Attorney Eric Hovatter told The Union Democrat on Thursday that 21 felony charges were filed against Allan Thomas Rockwell, 54, of Sonora, related to more than $20,000 in check contributions to Pilots of Wishes, a $4,000 charge at a Merced County hardware store and more than $6,000 in ATM withdrawals from the victim's bank account.
Hovatter described the victim as a 68-year-old disabled Sonora resident and a veteran, while Rockwell was either affiliated with or the manager of a nonprofit, veterans philanthropy organization called Pilots of Wishes, headquartered in Sonora.
Rockwell also has a well-catalogued history as the former owner of the now-defunct Oildale country-music honky-tonk, Trout's Nightclub.
Hovatter said the alleged scheme in Sonora originated in 2018, when the uncle was hospitalized due to conditions related to his disability. While under medical care, the victim gave Rockwell power of attorney, but with certain restrictions on what Rockwell could do with the money. When the uncle left the hospital, he lived with Rockwell.
"There was an understanding between the two of them with what Rockwell could or could not do with his money. That arrangement, based on the uncle's understanding, was being adhered to until he went to the bank and saw money was missing," Hovatter said.
The uncle at that time discovered the unauthorized checks, the donations to Pilots of Wishes and other transactions that were not a part of their agreement, Hovatter said.
Hovatter said investigation into the case was ongoing, and the District Attorney's Office was anticipating it to go through the system in due time.
Charges were filed against Rockwell on Dec. 11 and he turned himself into law enforcement on Jan. 19. He is currently out of custody on $20,000 bail.
The victim is identified by name in an affidavit in support of the arrest warrant as well as the criminal complaint, which identifies the charges against Rockwell.
In the affidavit, the investigation into the crimes is described as guided by banking records, a report from a Tuolumne County social worker and a Tuolumne County Sheriff's Office report.
The victim was described as earning $4,500 per month in pension and was living alone in Tuolumne County in 2018 before his hospitalization.
The affidavit said the victim returned to Rockwell's home in June 2019 with the agreement that the victim would pay $1,000 a month for a room, food, prescription medications and assisted living. Over time, the victim believed Rockwell was not allowing him to purchase items with his own money and limited him access to his monthly banking statements.
"The victim allowed the defendant to continue as POA because he trusted the defendant," the affidavit said.
In April 2020, the victim called his bank "and found out that his accounts were nearly depleted despite him having made few, if any, purchases." He reported the charges to his bank and to the social worker, noting that Rockwell did not have permission to use the money for anything not related to his care.
The social worker interviewed Rockwell on April 6, and Rockwell told her the victim wishes to pay for all of his expenses, including food, lodging and gas, the affidavit said. Rockwell also allegedly told the social worker the money was being used to pay mortgages on two pieces of property owned by two different people and to build a garage on one of the properties because the victim wanted to build a motorcycle.
Rockwell also allegedly told the social worker he wrote checks out of the victim's account and submitted them to his foundation, Pilots of Wishes, and paid the mortgages and expenses out of that account.
After that conversation, the victim removed Rockwell's power of attorney and reviewed his banking records with the social worker. In them, they discovered the allegedly fraudulent transactions and noted a number of the unauthorized ATM withdrawals occurred on the same day that similar withdrawals were made at banks in Oakdale.
The allegations against Rockwell span from Aug. 19, 2019 to April 1 last year. He is charged with 12 counts of felony grand theft from an elder or dependent adult and nine counts of felony identity theft. The grand theft charges are in large part related to check donations to Pilots of Wishes, while the identity theft charges are related to allegedly fraudulent bank transactions where Rockwell is accused of using his uncle's identity to pull out the money.
In total, the District Attorney's Office alleges $20,874 in check contributions to Pilots of Wishes and a $4,10.86 charge at Hilmar Lumber in Merced County related to the grand theft charges. The amounts of the checks appear to increase in value toward the conclusion of the alleged scheme. They range from $800 to $2,900 though most are between $1,000 and $1,400.
The identity theft charges represent $6,800 total in cash withdrawals, mostly in the form of $600 ATM withdrawals at a Bank of America in Tuolumne County (the exact location is not specified). The final charge against Rockwell is a $2,000 bank teller withdrawal at an unspecified location in Tuolumne County.
The arresting agency for Rockwell was identified as the Sonora Police Department. He turned himself in on his warrant on Jan. 19 in the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Office lobby. He was booked into the jail at 9:40 p.m.
Rockwell's arraignment and a warrant return hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. Feb. 5.
Hovatter said he was aware of some affiliation Rockwell had with Bakersfield, but was not familiar with any previous allegations against him.
According to the Bakersfield Californian, Rockwell "left town in 2017 under mysterious circumstances" and is possibly in possession of a vintage neon big-fish sign which graced Trout's Nightclub during his tenure as owner. The sign is described as a piece of local history and in a recent Bakersfield Californian article, multiple former affiliates of Rockwell comment on his history and business proclivities.
In 2017, the Bakersfield Californian reported Rockwell and his affiliates were sued by the new owner of the Trout's building, Thurman Investments Inc., because they were still doing business on the property against their wishes. The article also said Rockwell "defaulted on the payment of a promissory note in March 2016 to the former owner of the building, Mortgage Lender Services."
Located at 805 N. Chester Ave., the Trout's Nightclub building was sold at auction on May 9 to the investment group.
At the time, the group claimed ownership of the sign, which was missing.
In 2009, the Bakersfield Californian reported Rockwell successfully sued a musicians couple for 1.5 million after they "spread rumors about him stealing money from the bar's owner, handing out drugs, soliciting sex orgies and putting video cameras in the bathrooms at the nightclub."
The article also notes the couple claimed the bar was "run into the ground" and "only frequented by drug addicts and homosexuals" who stripped on the dance floor.
At the time, the attorney representing the couple planned to dispute the judgement and made claims against Rockwell's finances. The article also noted it was unlikely Rockwell would be able to collect the full amount against them.
A video on Vimeo titled "Rockwell Uncut: Everyday Motivation" and credited to TexasTonk.com shows Rockwell in a tan suit and a wide brimmed cowboy hat discussing his Christian faith, his motivation to maintain Trout’s and contribute to the community.
"Of course, the debt gets bigger by the day, so sleeping in is not an option," he said, laughing afterward.
Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at email@example.com or (209) 588-4526.