Thursday, August 18, 2022

Debtus Maximus: Fort Smith House Candidate Is Not What He Appears To Be

Defaulting on almost $900K in loans? How Trumpy!

As much as I enjoy the deep-dive, investigative posts that Blue Hog Report has done over the years, there is something about stories that are just…weird…that really appeals to me. (It’s this same fascination with oddities that led to the stories about Tom Cotton’s Little Rock condo.) So, when I first heard about Max Avery, the Republican candidate for Arkansas State House District 49, I knew I was going to write something about him.

After all, this is a guy who inexplicably changed his name to the completely ridiculous “Maximus Tyrannus Avery” three years after making Arkansas Business’s 40 Under 40 as Max Rodriguez. This is a guy who wrote an insane book about “affect[ing] your fate and alter[ing] your destiny” by engaging with “the seventy-two hidden Shem Hamephorash angels” and their “powerful secrets of magick,” then apparently scrubbed any reference to that book from all of his social media before running for office. That’s the kind of weird story that I cannot resist.

After doing some research, however, I realized that Avery’s weirdness is not the main story here. Not when he is also defaulting on nearly a million dollars in loans while living the life of a millionaire on social media, engaging in shady attempts to cheat McDonald’s, and refusing to vacate a house that he no longer owns.

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Maximus Tyrannus Avery was born Max Avery Rodriguez in December 1985 to Pam Bolding and Iram Rodriguez, and was raised for the most part in Alma. Describing himself as “a bored kid on the internet,” it was in high school that Rodriguez began building websites, first as a hobby and then as a way to make a little extra money.1 After high school, he took a customer service job with Alltel Wireless, where he worked from 2004-2007. So let’s use that as our starting point.

According to his résumé, Rodriguez jumped from Alltel to a position as Marketing Director for Prophetline, Inc., which he held from 2007-2008. On the other hand, according to his own campaign website, he worked at Alltel until he “was offered a position in business development with KGI where he spearheaded an international sales campaign resulting in the company receiving the President’s ‘E’ Award for Excellence in Exports.” (KGI is Knesek Guns, Inc., a weapons wholesaler based out of Fort Smith. Thor Global Defense Group, Inc., is a related entity, formed in 2009, and Knesek Guns and THOR are used pretty interchangeably in articles about Rodriguez/Avery.)

Except…Rodriguez told Arkansas Business in 2015 that he started working at KGI in 2009, not in 2007 like the campaign website makes it sound. In that article, he says that Knesek “was looking for someone to do his website. He decided to give me a shot. It worked out. I worked my way up.” That doesn’t sound like “offered a position in business development” unless, again, you’re taking the broadest possible view of what “business development” entails.

One thing we can say for certain about his time with Knesek/THOR, however, is that the job was good for Rodriguez’s public brand. By August 2010, he was referenced in one article as “Thor’s Chief Marketing Officer and Director of Business Development Max Rodriguez.” Four years later, when he was still just 28 years old, an April 2014 News5 story referred to him as “THOR Senior Vice President Max Rodriguez.”

By 2015, Max Rodriguez’s star appeared to be on the rise. As noted above, he was named to Arkansas Business’s 40 Under 40 list, which referred to him as “Senior Vice President of THOR Global Defense Group and Knesek Guns, Inc.” Unfortunately, that gives us another weird wrinkle.

Based on my own experience,2 those 40 Under 40 articles generally come out in mid-June each year, and someone from Arkansas Business contacts you in late April to let you know that you’ve been selected and to set up your photoshoot, then someone else contacts you in early-ish May to set up a short interview. In my case, the initial email telling me I was selected and setting up the photo shoot was April 21, 2014, and the email about setting up the interview was May 8, with the article coming out in the June 23 issue. Given that the 2015 class was announced in the June 22, 2015 issue, I’d say it’s a safe bet that the late April/early May timeline for the rest of the stuff was similar.

Thing is, Rodriguez left Knesek/THOR in May 2015 to take a job with Cox Business, according to what he told Talk Business & Politics in 2019. Why did he not mention to Arkansas Business that he had left Knesek/THOR (or would be leaving in the very near future)? Did he get fired? Did he not give two-weeks’ notice? What gives?

Whatever the answers to those questions, according to that Talk Business article and Rodriguez’s online résumé, he remains a consultant for Cox Business to this day. On his LinkedIn, however, that job is only shown as May 2015 to September 2016, which is when he started his job with Guardian Payment Systems as a Business Technology Consultant. LinkedIn is only as good as the information that is given to it, though. So let’s return to what we can figure out from other sources, starting from where we left off in September 2016.

In December 2016, just a few days after Rodriguez’s 31st birthday, his mother Pam Bolding passed away. In April 2017, Rodriguez filed an affidavit to collect his mother’s estate, in which he stated that the estate had minimal value and had no claims against it or money owed to it, and he asked the court to let him close the small estate and keep the entirety.

This would have been fine except his mother had inherited property in the late ’80s that was leased to McDonalds for $500/month, and McDonald’s had not been informed of Ms. Bolding’s death. In March 2017, a month before Rodriguez filed anything regarding the estate, McDonald’s sent a letter to Ms. Bolding’s address, exercising its option to extend the lease for another five years pursuant to the long-standing agreement. Rodriguez rejected this letter and returned it to sender. At the same time, McDonald’s continued to send $500/month to Pam Bolding, pursuant to the lease agreement, from January through June of 2017, and someone–“presumably Max Rodriguez,” according to McDonald’s–cashed the January, February, March, and April checks.

This means that, despite being on notice of McDonald’s lease and their intent to extend the lease, Rodriguez filed the affidavit to collect his mother’s estate in April, which would seem to make the statements in the April 2017 affidavit about the worth of the estate fraudulent. Following this affidavit, and without any notice or explanation to McDonald’s, Rodriguez returned the May 2017 check as if he believed that he did not have to continue to honor the lease. There was some back and forth and, ultimately, McDonalds sued him on June 30, 2017. The parties ultimately reached some sort of resolution, and the case settled out of court on October 2, 2017.

On or about December 11, 2017, Max posted that he had just closed on a historic home at 304 S. 14th St. in Fort Smith. According to property records, the purchase price was $355,000.

Rodriguez registered to vote in Sebastian County as Max Avery Rodriguez on January 3, 2018. Then, depending on what source you use, he founded Bolding Construction some time between June and September 28, 2018.

Suddenly, on November 5, 2018, Rodriguez filed a pro se petition in the Sebastian County Circuit Court, seeking to change his name from Max Avery Rodriguez to “Maximus Tyrannus Avery.” The reason he gave? “The desire to more greatly reflect the cultural origin in my name.” The petition was granted two days later, as such things tend to be, apparently without anyone ever pointing out that “Maximus Tyrannus” is hardly a better reflection of the cultural origin of a man whose father was from Puerto Rico than “Rodriguez” is. But I digress.

On January 18, 2019, Bolding Construction obtained a $50,000 loan from First National Bank of Fort Smith. To secure the loan, Rodriguez Avery put up his 14th Street house in Fort Smith as collateral.3 Also on January 18, 2019, Bolding Construction obtained a $150,000 loan from United Federal Credit Union. This was on top of a July 2018 loan from UFCU to Avery (who was then still Rodriguez) for $545,000, for which he had also put up the 14th Street house as collateral, as well as a $141,000 home-equity line of credit from UFCU to Avery in May 2019.

In March 2019, Avery updated his voter registration to reflect his cool new name. By August of 2019, things were going well for Avery, at least on the surface, and Talk Business & Politics named him to their 2019 40 Under 40 class. According to that article:

He established Bolding Construction in June 2018. It has 50 employees, and revenue is more than $1 million. In March, Avery acquired Professional Flooring Installation, and it has 20 employees. Avery also co-founded TriState Career Center in Arkoma, Okla., and the center offers a commercial driver’s license training program and forklift certification. The center has three employees and a capacity of 30 students.

A million in revenue and 50 employees in just over a year is impressive. By my count, as of August 2019, Avery apparently had 70+ employees and three separate companies that he was running.

But according to the article, Max had also recently founded Crusade Equity Partners, a multifamily real estate investment group, and Arcane Motors, a car restoration company. Then, if we look at the Arkansas Secretary of State’s website, we also see that he founded something called Allied Concepts LLC in March 2019 and Apollo Global Transport in January 2019.

That’s a lot going on, all at the same time.

But, assuming all of that is accurate, I think we also have to see August 2019 as the high-water mark for Maximus Tyrannus Avery, where the waves broke and rolled back into a sea of ever-growing debt.

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In November 2019, Bolding Construction and Max Avery obtained financing from a company called Forward Financing in an amount just north of $80,000. On February 18, 2020, Bolding Construction and Avery modified the 2019 First National Bank Loan to require interest-only payments from February 18, 2020, until January 2021, when all remaining interest and capital would be due. Despite the modification, Bolding/Avery defaulted on that loan. In April 2020, Bolding Construction and Avery amended their 2019 promissory note with United Federal Credit Union, extending the maturity date for that loan to June 2020. In June 2020, he defaulted on that loan.

In September 2020, pursuant to a binding arbitration clause in their agreement, Forward Financing was awarded $83,333.50 against Bolding Construction/Max Avery. In November 2020, United Federal Credit Union sued Bolding and Avery, and UFCU was awarded $151,112 against Bolding Construction and Avery in October 2021. And, in May 2021, First National Bank sued Bolding and Avery, with UFCU joining in that suit because of the July 2018 loan and May 2019 HELOC. The end result of that suit was a March 23, 2022 order containing two separate judgments against Bolding/Avery in favor of UFCU, in the total amount of $738,161.27; a judgment for First National Bank against Bolding/Avery in the amount of $56,945.77; and a dismissal of the Forward Financing claim against Bolding/Avery.

If my math is correct, that is a total of $795,107.04 that Bolding Construction and Max Avery owed to the two banks after Avery’s defaulting on nearly $900,000 in personal and business loans between January 2019 and June 2020.

And what was Avery doing from January 2019 to June 2020, rather than using some of his alleged $1 million in revenue to pay his personal and business loans?

Well, some time in January or early February 2019, he bought a 2004 Lamborghini Gallardo. In a twist that is either irony or verisimilitude, when he posted the car on Facebook, he wrote, “special thanks to United Federal Credit Union and Mishelle Field Cauldwell for continuing to finance my questionable endeavors.”

In March 2019, he upgraded the stereo on the Lamborghini. Also in March, he channeled his inner Smokey & The Bandit and purchased the tractor part of an 18-wheeler “for a fun new project.” In August 2019, he went skydiving. And he attended an absurd number of concerts throughout this time period. He spent more money on the Lambo in June 2019, as well as in March, April, and May. He paid to have a giant Notorious B.I.G. mural painted beside his pool in May 2019.4 He apparently bought himself a Rolex in April 2019.

You know…responsible adult things.

Even after the chickens started coming home to roost and he started getting sued on all of these loans, he continued to do anything but what you would expect from someone facing that much financial damage. April 2021 was another concert. May 2021 was a trip to Florida that he hurried back from so he could attend the Steel Horse Rally. August 2021 included a trip to Kansas City and a meal at the single most expensive BBQ restaurant you’re likely to find in the midwest. Then there was another concert in November 2021. And just last month, he traveled to Washington D.C.

It the issue was just that a candidate for state representative had defaulted on close to a million dollars in loans and was out buying Lambos and semis, that would be enough to make him a terrible candidate (and to warrant a story). But we still have on more wrinkle: the house.

On February 22, 2022, Avery filed to run for Arkansas House of Representatives for District 49. On his candidate information sheet, he listed the 14th Street house in Fort Smith as his permanent address. Then, as mentioned above, on March 23, UFCU and First National Bank got the combined $738,161.27 judgments against Bolding/Avery. Remember how Avery had put up that 14th Street house as collateral?

Yeah, funny thing about that: banks tend to go ahead and move on the collateral when you default on hundreds of thousands of dollars. So the circuit court ordered that the house be sold, which it was on April 26, 2022. UFCU purchased it for $348,800,5 and UFCU is listed as the current owner of the property according to Sebastian County property records.

Despite this, as of June 17 of this year, Max Avery was still refusing to vacate the home that he no longer owns, and UFCU filed a writ of assistance to get the sheriff to remove Avery from the premises. It does not appear in the record that the sheriff has done so yet, but it is only a matter of time.

But what then? Avery is a guy whose entire campaign seems to be built on his public persona of a successful rich guy with multiple thriving businesses and a historic Fort Smith mansion that he shows off through social media and parties. When people realize that the emperor has no clothes because they have been seized by the bank to pay off massive defaulted loans, and he no longer lives in the snazzy mansion because the sheriff has removed him and the bank has changed the locks, who is going to buy into the image enough to still vote for the guy?

And all of that is assuming that he finds a new permanent address in District 49, which, while possible, is not 100% a given. It’s not a particularly large district, and he certainly isn’t going to have the credit to buy a new house right away. Is he really going to rent some small place in the district just to continue his run, when renting a small place is the exact opposite of the image he’s trying to convey? I guess, once he’s removed by the sheriff and updates his voter registration to whatever address he lands at, we will know for sure.

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Seriously, though…Maximus Tyrannus???

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  1. It was the early 2000s; a kid’s options were pretty much doing nerd stuff on the internet, watching Making the Band 2, or playing with a Tamagotchi.

  2. Arkansas Business 40 Under 40 Class of 2014, baybeeee!

  3. FORESHADOWING

  4. To be fair, the mural is pretty awesome. But still.

  5. which was really just a set off against the money they were owed from Bolding/Avery

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