Suspect Blanning has checkered past in Aspen |

Suspect Blanning has checkered past in Aspen

ASPEN ” Jim Blanning is no stranger to Aspen, Colorado authorities. He had two scrapes with the law after bizarre incidents in the early 1990s and was sent to prison after he was convicted of fraudulent land sales.

Blanning, an Aspen native, had a long-running feud with Pitkin County authorities over ownership of numerous mining claims in the 1980s and 1990s. Pitkin County challenged his ownership of property, and Blanning retaliated in two ways.

He confronted the county commissioners and county staff by popping into the Cantina bar and restaurant wearing a sock as a dildo after the government officials finished with a meeting. The county officials were gathered for drinks, and Blanning confronted them for positions in land-use disputes.

Former county attorney Tim Whitsitt said that the confrontation occurred in the early 1990s. Authorities came to the bar and arrested Blanning, but Whitsitt couldn’t recall if Blanning was prosecuted for the incident.

At about the same time, Blanning caused a commotion when he threatened to hang himself with a rope outside a portico on the second story of the Pitkin County Courthouse. Authorities shut down the courthouse during Blanning’s antics during business hours and convinced him to come inside without incident.

Blanning’s scrapes with the law caught up with him after he was accused of fraudulent land sales in the 1990s. Court records established that Blanning would do meticulous research on the owners of Aspen-area mining claims from the 1880s and after the silver crash of 1893.

He would create dummy companies and corporations with the same names as historic landowners and claim title to mining claims, often located in obscure areas of the backcountry. Blanning would then sell the property to buyers convinced that he had legitimate title to the property. He was charged and convicted of a similar type of land scam involving property owned by a longtime Aspen resident.

He served a prison sentence and returned to Aspen after his release.

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