As the plane touched down in Austin, I couldn’t help but be jolted from my contemplation. I was back in Texas. I was in the American holy land, or so I assume, because the only state that I know of in our country to be blessed by God’s own hand is Texas.
I was back.
The first time I came to Texas this century, I came to be prepared to go to war. Now, I was back, and getting ready to go to war again. But this time, I wasn’t preparing to go fight in Iraq, I was preparing to go to war in Copperas Cove, Texas.
Cattle rustlers aren’t the only thieves in Texas.
You see, I had come to Texas, not because I wanted to, but because my property had been stolen. Since March 2014, my property management company RE/MAX Platinum Real Estate, had failed to pay the rent that they had collected on my property. After multiple attempts to get a response from RE/MAX Platinum Real Estate and after reading recent worrying reviews about their company on Yelp, I decided that I needed to fly down to Texas to fight a battle over business,
It was only upon arriving in Texas that I realized that I was in the midst of what appeared to be a great heist. I and many other veteran and military families had lost tons of money from a property management company with whom we were doing business.
Now to be honest, I turned out to be one of the lucky ones. You see, I always keep a tight watch on my money and my businesses. I considered my house outside of Ft. Hood to be one of my businesses. Sure it was and still is a small portion of what I do to make money, but I didn't buy this house because it was beautiful or because I planned on living around Ft. Hood for the rest of my life. I bought it because I'm in the real estate business to make money.
Never trust a businessman who tells you that he doesn’t care about money.
There are a lot of reasons why veterans are great businessmen and women. It’s not just the integrity and hard work characteristics that the military ingrained in us, it’s also the lessons that we learned in war which businessmen and women try and learn from books like Sun Tzu’s Art of War. While there are many lessons that have stuck with me from both business school and the military, the one lesson that I hold the highest above all others is:
“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” ~ Sun Tzu
Patience is the hardest trait to teach and the easiest to forget.
Going against someone in business requires the same things that going against an enemy’s position takes.
You can’t just attack your enemy’s position. You have to gather information. You have to get visual confirmation on his situation. You need to get the local population to give you valuable information, information that you would otherwise not have by doing the first two.
A huge key to success requires Human Collection. Most people think that because I’m right or because I can intimidate someone that they’ll tell me what I need to know. This is hardly ever the case.
But I digress. Let me re-start the story from where I left off.
Having arrived in Austin on the Saturday before Easter, I had time to prepare a plan of action for how the next week would unfold. So what did my plan entail? The overarching plan was:
- Day 1: Continue to collect information online and reach out to other homeowners who had been negatively impacted by RE/MAX Platinum Real Estate.
- Day 2: Make contact with my tenants and the property management company. Do a visual inspection of both my home and the real estate company. Obtain as much recordable information as possible. Meet with my lawyer to begin legal actions.
-Day 3: Continue obtaining more recordable information. Start putting together a timeline of what occurred. File a report with Copperas Cove Police Department.
- Day 4: Collect additional information. Provide notice that a breach of contract has occurred between myself and RE/MAX Platinum Real Estate. Sign with a new property management company.
- Day 5: Fly home.
Like most plans that make contact with the enemy, this fell apart.
Day 1 went well. I discovered that there was a Facebook group started by homeowners to share information. I found out that one of the owners, Gilbert Quinones of RE/MAX Platinum Real Estate had co-founded a new business in Austin, Texas called Inspect&Cloud. I found out that his wife, Susan Quinones, had been fined and her real estate license had been suspended due to actions taken against her by the Texas Real Estate Commission and that Gilbert Quinones was being brought before a board to have his license suspended for two years and be fined $19,000 at the end of April 2014. Most importantly, after speaking with RE/MAX’s corporate office in Texas and being told that they had taken away and therefore closed the RE/MAX Platinum Real Estate franchise from the owners due to multiple complaints lodged against the owners, I received the following letter from RE/MAX.
Day 2 is when the plan went to hell in a hand basket. After doing a visual inspection of my home and talking with my tenants, I drove to RE/MAX Platinum Real Estate’s office in Copperas Cove, Texas. I felt ecstatic upon walking up to their building because “RE/MAX” was still plastered all over the building. I was ready to nicely confront the owners and get the rent and security deposit due to me.
Within minutes of talking with the first employee that I met, my plan fell apart. RE/MAX Platinum Real Estate, Gilbert Quinones, and Susan Quinones were no longer there.
Upon leaving the office, I knew that I needed to accelerate my plan. The business was shuttered. The Quinones were nowhere to be found. Who knew what they were doing with my money and every other military and veteran families’ money that they had managed!
So I went to the people who are supposed to apprehend thieves, the police. Specifically Copperas Cove Police Department. After letting the receptionist know why I was there, I was asked to sit down and that a police officer would come speak with me. As I sat waiting, I took out my paperwork, took out my phone and went to the Facebook group’s page, and prepared what I was going to say:
“Over the past 2 months RE/MAX Platinum Real Estate has not paid the rents that it received to me for the property that they were managing. Furthermore they have absconded with all of the security deposits. While I have been personally effected, it appears that they have committed the same act against the majority of the homeowners whose property they are managing. This means that a conservative estimate of what they have stolen is north of $150,000. As you can see from the paperwork that I have, including my Transaction Listing that came from RE/MAX Platinum Real Estate’s financial systems, and what has been said on the Facebook group by the homeowners effected, this has negatively impacted multiple military and veteran families in the Copperas Cove and Ft. Hood area.”
The police officer was nice. She explained to me that this was a civil matter and not a criminal matter and that the amount stolen didn’t make it a matter that would involve the police. She told me that I needed to go to the County Annex and file in the Small Claims Court.
I thanked her, left, and went to the County Annex to get the paperwork and file a report against the owners. After being told by the County Annex that I could not file anything against the owners of RE/MAX Platinum Real Estate until 10 days after they had received a Demand Letter, I left and sat in my car, turned up the air conditioning, and began to think. You see, I knew that I was fortunate enough to be able to come to Texas to handle this issue in person. I had the financial resources to do so. I was able to telework. But, how many military and veteran families couldn’t come to Texas to handle this issue?
This is the point at which the businessman’s heart, my heart, softened.
I knew that I wasn’t just trying to get my money back, I was trying to make sure that all of those military and veteran families could get their money back. I knew that none of us would probably get as much as we were owed, but I had to try. So I contacted the one person in Coryell County who was supposed to defend the people of his county in court, the District Attorney, Dusty Boyd. I wasn’t the only homeowner to contact Mr. Boyd about what had occurred in his county, other homeowners had contracted him. While he never responded to my e-mail, his response to another owner's e-mail was:
“I am in receipt of your email. I encourage you to please contact the law enforcement authorities in Copperas Cove, Texas regarding any potential criminal complaints. As my office prosecutes felony offenses within Coryell County, we do so only after a case has been opened, investigated, then forwarded to our office from the respective law enforcement authorities within my jurisdiction.
If the alleged offense occurred within the city limits of Copperas Cove, then the appropriate authority would be the Copperas Cove Police Department.
No case that has been forwarded to my office for which to decide to go forward on or not.
Should you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my office.
It’s not just the amount of money that has made this The Great Ft. Hood Heist of 2014, it’s also the fact that neither the police nor the District Attorney seemed to care about what had happened.
Seriously nobody seemed willing to file a report or even review the information that had been accumulated. To my knowledge they still haven't done either.*
It wasn’t even as if the owners of RE/MAX Platinum Real Estate were hiding out or fled to Mexico. Gilbert Quinones, the owner of RE/MAX Platinum Real Estate had co-founded Inspect&Cloud, a company based out of Downtown Austin, TX. His new company was a mere one-hour drive from Ft. Hood, Texas!
Hell, something must even be going on with Inspect&Cloud since in early April 2014 Gilbert's title was "Founder & CEO" and as of April 25, 2014 it was "Inspect & Cloud Co-Founder".
I’m not saying that I expected the District Attorney or Copperas Cove PD to jump up, get in their cars, and kick down Gilbert Quinones' door in Austin. But hell, I expected more from the government of a state that prided itself on “getting a rope” for somebody who dared to serve salsa made in New York City.
Who knows, maybe they were out of whiskey for their men and beer for their horses….
While some of the homeowners effected are out of the military and civilians, there are many of us who are overseas, deployed, or serving this country. The Ft. Hood area exists because of the military. As the largest base in the United States of America (by size), you would presume that the local government would do all that it could to reasonably help veteran and military families.
You would think that at the very least the District Attorney would take interest and help those serving this country cut through the bureaucratic red-tape.
Much has occurred since I first touched down in Texas. I have had to make decisions with imperfect information. However, I feel confident in the decisions that I have made. Like many of my fellow military and veteran families who were having RE/MAX Platinum Real Estate manage our properties, I have still not gotten the money that is owed to me. This story has not reached a happy ending. We are still fighting.
At the end of the day, this is The Great Ft. Hood Heist of 2014 not because of the amount of money stolen, although that’s a lot of money for a small county in Central Texas, it’s because, as of this writing, it appears that nobody within the government of Coryell County who has the power to help has helped the men and women who have and who still are bravely putting their lives on the line to defend this country.
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing.
Learn from what has happened. Read "5 Lessons To Learn From The Great Ft. Hood Heist of 2014. Especially #4."
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*UPDATE April 28, 2014:
We've been deluged with e-mails of support. It never ceases to amaze me how our military and veteran community comes together to support one another.
Copperas Cove PD has assigned a Detective and is now accepting police reports from those who have been negatively effected.
I even received a call from Dusty Boyd today and am sitting down with him tomorrow to discuss his take on what occurred and what military and veteran families can do if something like this were to ever happen again.
I honestly believe that it was collective action by our community that has helped get us to where we are today. Thank you for helping people whom you might not know nor ever meet, but with whom you share an important bond of military service.