Mr. Mathews Goes To Trial

Mathews Faced Eight Counts Of Fraud

Last year, Mathews was put on trial in Orange County, Calif., on eight counts involving theft by fraud. Eight ex-girlfriends came forward as a result both of extensive publicity and the efforts of Mathews' adversaries.

The defense said Mathews was being harassed. His lawyer, Marshal Schulman, a prominent local criminal lawyer, defended him. How could Mathews afford him? His girlfriend at the time, real estate agent Jane Jones, posted his bail and bankrolled the defense. (She has since broken up with him.)

Mathews' neighbors in Monarch Summit gleefully admitted that they couldn't wait to see Mathews finally face trial. In the months preceding the trial, they turned out in force for every one of his legal proceedings.

As the trial began, prosecutor Jim Marion described Mathews' methodical modus operandi. Marion noted that Mathews was at one point seeing five different women at once. The defense maintained that while Mathews is no Boy Scout, his ex-girlfriends share the blame for their predicament.

Not so, according to Deanna Petrucco and the seven other women. One by one, they took the stand. The jury heard a litany of his tall tales.

The women said they believed Mathews because they had no reason not to, and when he said he loved them, they believed that, too. When he asked for money, they were happy to help him.

No one had loaned Mathews as much money as his girlfriend at the time, Jones, whom the prosecution portrayed as an unknowing victim-in-the-making. On the stand, Jones admitted that he owed her $336,000 because she helped him buy a house. (She has since recouped that money. Mathews did not cheat her out of any money.)

The defense argued that Mathews wanted to buy the house himself and use the equity to pay back the women he owed. It said he couldn't yet, because he was the victim of a vendetta.

After only one day's deliberation, the jury convicted Mathews on all counts - six counts of theft, two of attempted theft. Petrucco was very happy: "All the counts? All right! That's great! Oh wonderful," she said.

The only time Mathews spoke for himself was to try to persuade the judge to go easy; he said after all one of his past three convictions was for only a single count. He gave no sign of remorse and had no words for his victims.

He was sentenced to more than nine years in prison, just short of the maximum penalty and the toughest sentence of Mathews' long career.

For his victims, foes and former neighbors, Mathews' fate was cause for celebration. But Marion, the prosecutor, thinks that Mathews will continue to con when he gets out. He will be eligible for parole in 2004.

Franklin agreed: "I guarantee you that until the day he dies he will be working on some con. It may not be terribly credible, when he's 75 and gumming his porridge, but he'll be trying."

Mathews has filed an appeal. Jones, his ex-girlfriend, managed to recover her investment when she sold the house she helpehim buy.

Produced by David Kohn