More trouble for accused Petaluma fraudsters

  • Wesley and Gina Halihan prepare to plant flowers on the side of their Brown Street home, in Santa Rosa on Thursday, July 3, 2014. The Halihans purchased the home from James and Lara Castle, who allegedly hid an undisclosed amount of debt through a forged reconveyance. The Halihans have had a lien on their home since they purchased it in 2009. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

Wesley and Gina Halihan felt the opportunity was too good to pass up when their landlords offered to sell them the home they’d been renting in Santa Rosa.

“I never thought I’d get to buy a home, and all of a sudden the landlord knocks on the door and says, ‘yeah I’ll sell you a house,’ ” Halihan said.

But their dream turned into a nightmare about 10 months later when they discovered their Brown Street home was entangled in hundreds of thousands of dollars in liens for an unpaid mortgage taken out on the property by the Petaluma couple that sold it to them, according to court records.

Now, federal agents are searching for the Halihans’ former landlords, James Christopher Castle, 49, and his wife, Lara Castle, 44, who are at the center of a bitter fight with the Internal Revenue Service. A federal indictment unsealed last month accuses the couple of trying to steal more than $2 million from the U.S. government by claiming tax refunds based on phony documents.

James Castle, who is also known as Chris Castle, said the couple has violated no laws and accused the government of unjustly targeting them.

“It’s not only arbitrary, it’s a ridiculous waste of taxpayer time and money,” he said.

He added that some of his and his wife’s actions, such as not paying taxes, were committed in protest of unjust government laws and banking practices.

“Citizens are required to challenge the government, to call them to the carpet if things aren’t being addressed appropriately,” he said.

Castle would not say in a recent phone interview whether he, his wife and their daughters were still in California or even the United States. The IRS has not been able to contact the couple since the June 24 indictment, said Special Agent Arlette Lee. “If (they) want to contact us, we’d be more than happy to have a conversation with them,” she said.

When asked if he planned to do so, Castle replied, “Why would I reach out? They’re a bunch of liars, cheats and henchmen.”

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