Loads of you have asked me the same question. What happened at the old station?
At this point, just about everyone that was involved there knows the story. Which is why just about everyone that was involved there is no longer so.
The problem started in late 2017, but I didn't start to suspect wrongdoing until late summer of 2019. I began to feel like something was up on the financial side of things. The station seemed to have too much going for it for there to never be any money available for little things like marketing and paying people or bills. I had several meetings with our Credit Union contact, who kept telling me that he could not discuss the specifics of our account with only me, but suggested I keep a very close eye on the account and that I should trust my instincts. This was difficult to do, as every time I was given login access to remote banking, the password would be changed within a couple hours.
At one point, he even brought a big stack of bank statements to my office and said the answer to my concerns could be easily found by reading them. I read through them and nothing jumped out at me. He said read them again. I did and still didn't see it. I read them 3 times and nothing. I'll get back to this, but he was right. It was all there. Plain as day.
I informed a friend of my worries that my business partner was stealing money. He was quite sure that this was the case and gave me a plan for me to really know for sure. He told me to tell my former (obviously) business partner that he wanted to invest in our company and valued it at an absurd $300,000. I asked what good it would do to present a ridiculously unrealistic offer that no one in his right mind would make? He told me to just pitch it to him and see if he says yes. I did and he did. In fact, he nearly jumped out of his chair. Within 10 minutes, he had rattled off about $40K that he wanted to spend immediately. Adding additional studios, paying off his truck and getting it wrapped, all new equipment, live remote setup etc. Now that the offer was so enthusiastically accepted, it was time for me to show him the other side of the coin. Our new "investor" wants to look at the books. I kept hearing my friend's words over and over again "If he says no to me looking at the books, he's stealing from you." I told him and instantly, the deal was off. No one was going to look at the books.
I went to my office and called my friend. "You're right. He's stealing from me."
I just couldn't figure out how...yet.
Now, we officed and had our studio in an unnecessarily large suite. Rent was 5 times what we needed to be spending, so I wanted no part of it. He just had to have it so it was decided that he would rent it out under the name Clear Lake Business Collective and the station would just be a tenant and pay him rent. He would then rent out all the other empty offices and it could be a side business for him. Fine with me. I had and have no interest in being a landlord.
Offices were soon rented out, with seemingly no thought given to what was being paid per square foot by the Clear Lake Business Collective. He wasn't even close to charging what he was paying. And those were the ones that were actually being paid for. Some were given away as a "trade". Some side business. Of course, he was completely unable to handle such a steep rent and was locked out for non payment over and over again. He'd tell his tenants that they were working on the a/c or make up some other BS story to keep them from coming into the office, only to find their keys wouldn't unlock the door. Show hosts would be told there were technical issues or problems with the equipment, to make sure no one came in to try to do a show, in a studio he had been evicted from.
After multiple lockouts, I decided if it ever happened again, I would get my stuff and move out of the office. I don't need my gold records being sold at an auction.
On August 23, 2019 I was copied on an email from his landlord informing him that he was $12,667.50 behind on rent. I nearly passed out. As I was never allowed access to remote banking for more than an hour or two (before he would change the password on me) I decided to drive to an ATM and check our account balance. It was -$7. NEGATIVE SEVEN DOLLARS!!!!! That was a Friday and on Saturday morning I drove up to the office and moved as much of my stuff as I could make fit in my car and son's SUV (fine, it was a few trips).
He kept calling and texting, asking why I moved out. I felt like I had better questions and asked why he isn't paying his office rent and oh yeah, WHERE THE HELL IS ALL OUR MONEY????????
I went up to the office to chat with him. You know how you can just tell when someone is lying? Hands are fidgety, voice is shaky, no eye contact. I sat and listened to him tell me that he had the money and was paying the whole thing today. I asked if he had the money, why wasn't he paying his rent? Better yet, why isn't there any money in our bank account? Never got a good answer to that.
I left and was determined to figure out what was happening to the money.
Jump to Halloween of 2019. I'm busy figuring out my next move, when it occurs to me. I control the email accounts. Everything was set up on my personal account and as the account manager, I bet I can see his emails.
And there it was.
First thing that jumped out at me was an email verifying that a change of bank account for all credit card transactions had been approved. We only had one bank account, why would it change? There were several of these emails. Credit card processing was being moved time and again.
Through those emails, I was also able to access the Square account to see all our credit card transactions. There was an option to sort transactions by bank account. Again, we only had one bank account so this seemed odd. In total, $43,416.00 was diverted (stolen, embezzled, take your pick of words) from our company account and into his personal account or at least an account that I was unaware of and had no access to.
I found check stubs showing his... let's call it "special friend" Jasmine was being paid a salary of $1,000 per week. Last total I could see was over $33K. I always wondered why she was with him. A lot of us did.
There was a Woodforest Bank account that had daily transaction emails. Tons of transactions that made no sense. However, what did make sense was a trip to Austin with a hotel charge of over $800 at the Downtown Austin Westin. There were Austin bar and restaurant charges as well. Funny, those charges lined up with check-ins on "special friend" Jasmine's Instagram page. Same days, same hotel, same restaurants.
Some recurring charges stumped me. A monthly charge of $89.95 to W-8 Tech and an insane amount of Cash App payments to a bunch of (mostly) female names.
Leave it to my attorney to figure that one out. W-8 Tech is the discrete billing name for a prostitution website called seekingarrangement.com. It's promoted as a site for wealthy sugar-daddies to make mutually beneficial relationships with young girls. Here's how I understand it. You pay $89.95 per month to be on the site, browse through the girls, communicate through their platform and make your "arrangement" with them. No money actually changes hands through the site and I think that's how they get away with it. You are to use something like Venmo or...wait for it...Cash App. I did a search in his emails for Seeking Arrangement and found his account confirmation email.
Now I know where the money went.
Oh, about those bank statements my Credit Union contact brought me. Now that I knew what was up, I went back and looked at them again. I saw it instantly. There were no deposits. Only transfers from his personal account that were just enough to cover the station's basic, automatic draft payments. I called the Credit Union to let him know I had figured it out. He couldn't believe it took me so long. In my defense, if you tell me someone is stealing from me, I'm just looking at the money going out, not what's coming in. Still, I'm an idiot.
Here's where it gets really messed up. As you may remember, I discovered all this on Halloween. October 31, 2019. While doing the math, trying to figure out how much money had been stolen, my brother called to inform me that my dad had just passed away. I remember the first words that came out of my mouth. "This is too much shit for one day."
As I was still unsure of what had happened and how bad the financial damage was, I couldn't leave right away. My brother said that was probably for the best and asked me to wait on funeral arrangements before heading to Ft. Worth. I went to my Dad's funeral, still unsure of how bad things were in the business. From the funeral, we went to the cemetery. Everyone then went back to my brother's house for food and to visit and remember Dad. Not me. I had to get back. I left the cemetery and drove straight back to Kemah. With traffic it took 6 hours. The whole way I'm just running through how this could have happened right under my nose. Then I'd think about Dad. He would have understood. He probably would have told me to skip the funeral and figure the money thing out.
Once I was out of the picture, the stations went down in pretty short order. That's the upside to being the guy that did all the work. It can't last without you. He sent quite a few emails to people pretending to be me, in an effort to divert company assets to himself. Once they contacted me via phone to verify that I wasn't the one sending those emails, the stations were locked up and shut down. Even I couldn't access them directly and I built them. All the apps that I built were eventually cancelled for non payment. The cat was out of the bag. No more need to transfer funds to our account to cover automatic drafts. It was over.
Last point, as he was in charge of the money and I was in charge of doing the actual work of building stations and apps. It was his responsibility to file our franchise tax. He never did. I'm sure it's because if he had, I would have clearly seen that he was stealing.
The Texas Secretary of State's office put Vinyl Draught LLC in forfeiture on January 25, 2019. There was no legal right to conduct business from that day on.
In May of 2020, I applied for and was granted Vinyl Draught LLC as a sole proprietor, by the Texas Secretary of State's office. The name always was and is mine. I came up with it. I lost 2 and a half years of my life and an obscene amount of money. I wasn't going to lose the name.
Well, that brings you up to date for the most part. I don't know how the guy sleeps at night. I may upload all the documents and emails showing what and how this went down, but there are pages and pages of them. It'll take forever. Here are a few.