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Ashland attorney auctions house in Southern Oregon while he faces charges of embezzlement in Rhode Island

Thirty-five acres of picturesque farmland just outside of the Ashland city limits is being auctioned off on November 15. The starting price for the sealed-bid contest is $760,000 and the real estate agent representing the property thinks that's a good deal.

"The guy needs to sell it," said John Rosenthal, the agent, of his client.

His client, William J. Craven, is scheduled to appear in a Rhode Island court on Monday on charges of embezzling $400,000 from a client's family estate.

He has owned the farmland on Eagle Mill Road, just east of Interstate 5 on the north sided of town, since 1994 and once tried to create a vineyard there. According to a Jackson County clerk there are 13 liens on the property and 11 notices of default on record with the county.

But the descendants of Maurice Longo, the family Craven allegedly stole from, are hoping the property doesn't sell before they can get the money they say he swindled from them.

"He is obviously selling the property to get cash," said Bruce Algier, the ex-son-in-law of Longo, whose two children and a nephew inherited the estate.

Longo, who died in 1992, met Craven at a Little League game around the time he was ending a relationship with a long-time family attorney, according to the Westerly Sun newspaper of Southern Rhode Island.

Longo typified the "old Italian" lifestyle, Algier said. A house painter who raised chickens and vegetables, he saved his entire life to leave his grandchildren a $750,000 estate.

But according to Rose Capalbo, the co-executor of the will with Craven, both the lawyer and the money are gone.

"The trust accounts are empty," she told the Westerly Sun in August. "I don't know where the money is. I don't know where [Craven] is."

Corinn Algier, a University of Rhode Island student who was supposed to inherit $50,000 and college tuition money from her grandfather, has spent the last four years pursuing Craven. She brought a complaint about him to the Rhode Island Supreme Court's disciplinary board, but Craven didn't show up to the hearing, according to the Westerly Sun.

This wasn't the first time Craven was called to task for improper affairs as an attorney. In 1984, he was twice censured by the Kansas Supreme Court for neglecting his clients and failure to perform services, according to the Westerly Sun. And in the early 1990s a Connecticut tavern owner said Craven defrauded him of $105,000, the report in the Westerly Sun says.

"It's like a nightmare," Corinn Algier told The Sun in August. "We're so tired of chasing him."

But this summer Rhode Island State Police began looking for Craven in Southern Oregon. Ashland Police confirmed that Rhode Island police had advised them to be on the look-out for Craven.

A grand jury issued an arrest warrant in August, and on September 19 Craven flew to Rhode Island and turned himself in.

He pled not guilty to four counts of embezzlement then and his lawyer, the high profile Ocean State attorney Robert Mann, said his client will stick with that plea.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x. 226 or