A former Orange County, Calif., real estate agent has been sentenced to almost six years in prison for his role in a real estate scheme to sell illegally converted condominiums to home buyers, media reports said.

Phil Benson, 73 of Hayden, Idaho, also was ordered to pay nearly $680,000 in restitution to Stewart Title, which insured the condominium sales, according to an AP report.

In the scheme, Benson tried to avoid a 1984 city law requiring apartment owners to modify properties and pay a $7,000 conversion fee before the units could be sold, according to the AP. Benson pleaded guilty last year to 24 counts of fraud for helping to sell 47 apartment units as condominiums for $11.2 million dollars.

Judge David O. Carter gave Benson a reprieve until April 11 to begin his 70-month sentence because the judge said he wanted to give Benson time to complete a round of chemotherapy, media reports said. Benson is battling cancer and arrived at U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, Calif., Friday in a wheelchair and using an oxygen tube to aid breathing.

Former Huntington Beach (Orange County) Mayor Pamela Houchen has also pleaded guilty to fraud charges and will be sentenced later this year, the AP reported.


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