His criminal record goes back to at least 1988, when Hilton was arrested in Santa Ana, Calif. for writing bad checks.
Beginning in 1993, Hilton spent six years in prison in California on a dozen counts of grand theft and other charges including illegal diversion of construction funds.
The charges included stealing $20,000 in a real estate swindle in which Hilton convinced an associate to give him a deed on property in Long Beach, Calif., ostensibly as collateral on a loan. Hilton turned around and sold the property to another party but was caught when the buyer contacted the original owner.
After his release, he got entangled in at least three civil lawsuits alleging fraud or misrepresentation. Those included luring investors to sink money into gold and silver collectible coins; posing as a fine arts dealer in Utah in order to convince a co uple to give him a $100,000 silver statue; and, in the case involving co-defendant Carella, seeking investors for an assisted living complex in Southern California that was never built.
Hardin officials, however, will not be dissuaded: Al Peterson, vice-president of the city's economic authority, insists his city will still turn over its jail to Hilton: "It's a solid deal."