Arrest Made In REO Con

An ex-con who reportedly posed as a member of REO Speedwagon and others to bilk people out of cash, meals and other perks in three states was arrested October 11th in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Walter Louellen Stearns, 47, also known as Robert Bouconi, was taken into custody after meeting a real estate agent at a local restaurant under the ruse of buying a multimillion-dollar home, according to Scottsdale police.

Scottsdale detectives were investigating the alleged scammer’s connection to three separate cons, including one in which he promised a Phoenix bar patron a job paying $250,000 per year.

“When we arrested him, he had $1 on him,” Scottsdale police detective Paul Arnold told the Arizona Republic.

He was arrested and booked into Maricopa County Jail on felony fraud and forgery charges and was being held on $3,600 bail at press time.

The Santa Fe New Mexican also reported that Stearns allegedly used the name Gary Richrath, who was REO Speedwagon‘s original guitarist, October 9th in a real estate scam that didn’t go through after the agent became suspicious.

The band’s Kevin Cronin said he was relieved the arrest was made since the band has a new album coming out and tour plans for next year in the works.

“I’m glad that he got caught,” Cronin told Pollstar. “He needed to get caught, to stop doing this. … My heart goes out to the victims.

“I hate any time our name is connected with something other than positive, good energy because that’s what REO Speedwagon has always stood for and always will stand for,” Cronin said. “The fact that somebody used our name for nefarious purposes – I guess it comes with the territory.”

Stearns is alleged to have previously masqueraded as a member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, a member of 38 Special, a Mafia kingpin’s son and the owner of several music production companies. He has also used the name Mark Gaines.

“[Stearns] seems to use this so often, and it works for him. It didn’t surprise me he resurfaced again,” Det. Arnold told the Republic.

The elusive Stearns spent six years incarcerated in Arizona prisons serving sentences for forgery and fraudulent schemes before he was released in January.

Stearns allegedly used the same scheme of promising to give luxury cars as gifts and buying big-ticket real estate as tax write-offs in Redlands, Calif., in September.

While there, using the name Rob Valenti, he allegedly posed as REO Speedwagon’s guitarist to get free meals, drinks, a hotel stay and $600 cash for vehicle documentation fees before vanishing.

The reported incidents happened to coincide with REO Speedwagon’s Southern California and Arizona concert dates.

Redlands authorities are said to be working with the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office to extradite Stearns on felony charges of fraud under a false pretense and identity theft.

– Tina Amendola