A judge ruled Monday there is enough evidence to try a Santa Rosa man charged with conning people in schemes tied to professional sporting events, home electronics and a Mercedes-Benz, but said there is no proof the mother of his children was involved.
Judge Gary Medvigy dismissed the case against Tammy Fa'agata, 40, the former assistant coach of Cardinal Newman's softball team. The Rohnert Park woman cried and hugged a friend as she left the courtroom.
The judge found Aaron Averbuck, 44, could be tried on multiple counts of grand theft, driving on a suspended license and a count of burglary stemming from incidents over the past two years.
"I see classic fraud here," Medvigy said after a day-long preliminary hearing for the two defendants. "A flim-flam man."
If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison. Averbuck's lawyer indicated he would seek a pre-trial settlement. Earlier this year, prosecutors offered a plea bargain in which Averbuck would serve a year in county jail.
It was unclear if the offer was still on the table. Prosecutor Chris Brown said additional charges may be coming.
Averbuck remained free on bail.
Four witnesses, including a defense witness, testified about their dealings with the man police suspect is behind as many as 30 similar fraud cases.
Jennifer Diaz, a single mother, testified she had just lost her job when she ran into Averbuck, her neighbor, who made her a business proposition.
Averbuck told her he could get her and a niece jobs as hostesses at a Las Vegas boxing match last summer if they paid their $725 airfare upfront, she said.
She handed over the money in the hopes of digging herself out of a financial hole but the job never materialized, she said.
When she confronted Averbuck, he made excuses including that his mother was dying and refunded just $100, she said.
That's when she reported Averbuck to police, she said.
"He always lied to me," she said. "Always made up stories."
Todd Noonan testified he ran into Averbuck at Starbucks. Averbuck said he could get a 50 percent discount on appliances from Best Buy and asked Noonan if he needed anything, Noonan said.
Noonan gave him about $1,000 for a dishwasher for himself and a TV set for his brother. At some point, Noonan gave him an additional $1,800 for a package trip to a Las Vegas boxing match, he said.
Noonan said Averbuck never delivered on any of it.
Yet another witness testified that Averbuck tried to sell her a Mercedes sedan for $8,000. The problem was, Averbuck was in the process of buying it from someone else, said Sonoma County Sheriff's Det. Tony King.
The car's owner, Ron Sichel of Santa Rosa, testified Averbuck gave him four checks totaling $20,000 but lacked the funds to cover them.
Averbuck's lawyer downplayed the transactions as civil matters that belonged in small claims court.
But the prosecutor likened his behavior to a Ponzi scheme.