Archive | 7:30 am

There Are No Small Enemies (Part One)

28 Nov

Shortly after the end of the Indianapolis construction project, I returned to Dallas, to discover that my boss was energetically cheating his partner, who was based in Minneapolis. When I confirmed my suspicions, I confronted him with my findings, and decided to leave. I offered him the opportunity to make things right with his partner, which he promised to do. When I learned that he hadn’t done so, I dropped a dime on him, as promised, and their partnership fell apart. The owners of one of our competitors and I had become friends of sorts, so I approached them, and was soon Operations Manager of their company.

The three of them had two other partners… Sergio Osuña, of Mexico City, and Ignacio Alacrán, of Venezuela. Tim, the president of the company, was engaged to marry Sergio’s daughter, Ana Laura. While Ana Laura spoke some English, nobody else in the Mexican office did, and I was the only one in Dallas that spoke Spanish. Therefore, I soon found myself deeply involved in the interoffice communications, from both an operational and a corporate standpoint.

Ignacio, meanwhile, was apparently plotting to either take over the operation, or failing that, to abscond with as much as possible. A few months after I joined the company, I was made a vice president, by virtue of Tim, Peter and Mike’s controlling votes, in Dallas. That’s when Ignacio decided to make his move, calling the note on a cash loan he had made to the company a year before. I questioned the legality of calling the note, but Tim and Peter could not locate their copy of the document. So I called Ignacio at his Miami home and asked him to mark up a copy of the note, with margin notes as to what terms had been satisfied, according to his accounts, and upon which terms he based his claim of breach of contract. I promised to review his input, and pursue the quickest possible solution, so as to save the company legal fees.

Meanwhile, Sergio’s operation was panicking, because they had invested heavily in equipment that was sitting in our Dallas warehouse, awaiting shipment to their waiting clients in Mexico City. They had already charged their clients substantial portions of the purchase price, and if the equipment became embroiled in a takeover attempt, they stood to lose a lot of money, as well as much of their hard-earned credibility. Sergio, his wife and daughter, and their General Manager, Miguel, flew to Dallas to meet with us, and review strategy. By the time they arrived, I had received a fax from Ignacio, as requested, and I arrived at the conclusion that he had no legal basis for accelerating the loan. I shared this opinion with them, and it seemed to relieve them somewhat.

However, Sergio, and even more so, Ana Laura, was furious, and I was convinced that any attempt to negotiate with Ignacio would deteriorate as tempers rose. Since Miguel seemed to have a cooler temperament, I suggested that he and I conduct the negotiations, but this was denied. Later, Sergio privately confided that Miguel had only recently joined the organization, and they didn’t yet feel sufficiently comfortable with him to allow him that much latitude. I asked Sergio if he felt comfortable granting one of us his proxy, so that we could take Ignacio to task, without having to wait for them to join us from Mexico City. He said he might consider it, but he doubted that Ana Laura would agree, since she had earlier been against granting a proxy to Tim. The next day, at breakfast, Sergio suggested that perhaps they might grant me their proxy, and I was surprised to hear Ana Laura pipe up, “Perfecto!” Three days later, we had a board meeting, and successfully set aside Ignacio’s efforts to seize assets. That afternoon, we began loading the equipment for Mexico City, which relieved a lot of the pressure from Sergio.

A short two weeks later, we were served a Cease and Desist Order by a deputy sheriff, on an action brought against us by Ignacio, in which he claimed we had misappropriated company funds and assets, and had provided him false information on a company report, a copy of which was attached. That was the first time any of us had ever seen that document, so it was obviously something forged by Ignacio. That he would blatantly lie to the court, essentially daring us to call his bluff, surprised me a great deal, for he had a great deal to lose, when exposed. I decided to investigate this largely unknown partner, to see what I was dealing with.

What I learned was this:

  • Ignacio Alacrán had entered the United States nine years earlier, on a thirty day tourist visa. It expired, and no further visa was ever sought, or issued.
  • He owned a home in Miami, FL, valued at 5½ million dollars, with no evident source of income.
  • He had never filed an income tax return in the U.S.
  • He hadn’t paid property taxes on his home since three years prior.
  • He had outstanding arrest warrants in Caracas, Venezuela, for illegal business practices, failure to pay taxes, and flight to evade arrest.

Very interesting! And as Artie Johnson, of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In would say, “Und very provocative!” I called a friend of my father’s, from the US Immigration and Naturalization Service, and asked him if he could help me out by verifying Ignacio’s immigrant status, before I took further action. He said it could be easily done, but that I needed to understand that if they learned that he was in the country illegally, they would have to take appropriate action. Awww! Ya don’t say? Pity, that!

Less than two weeks later, Ignacio was climbing off a plane in Caracas, where he was met by some government officials that were very interested in talking to him. He left behind, in Miami, his home, to be auctioned off by the IRS and INS, as well as a sizeable bank account (millions, not thousands, of dollars!). His wife and two daughters decided to stay in Miami…where, I have no idea, unless they had their own isolated assets. Of course, as is often the case in South American countries, Ignacio’s “contributions” to the betterment of the Venezuelan populace, gave the judges sufficient cause to forgive his past transgressions. He was back on the street in two days! Through this entire process, we managed to protect the Osuña family’s interests, which were far greater than our own. Their clients had received their equipment, and everyone was happy.

Unfortunately, the company was shutdown, as a result of the assets being tied up in claims by the government, either for taxes, or as assets belonging, at least in part, to an illegal alien. C’est la vié! Sergio, of course, was ecstatic, and pleased to see that their trusting me hadn’t been misguided. He was the one that kept me informed on Alacrán’s comings and goings, after his deportation.

He was also the one that called me a few days later, and said that he needed me in Mexico City, THAT NIGHT! He refused to discuss it on the phone, and he refused my protestations against such short notice. He simply said that it was imperative that I be there tonight. In a little less than three hours, I was winging it south. When I arrived, Sergio was in a meeting, which lasted for two more hours after I arrived. His secretary took me to his private office, where I was directed to wait for him, and not to leave for any reason. By the time Sergio came in, well after 11:00 PM, I was more than a little put-out, and told him so. He calmly explained that he would not have done it that way, if it hadn’t been a matter of life and death. This concerned me, because I thought perhaps someone had taken deathly ill, or had suffered a bad accident. In Spanish, I asked him, “Who, Sergio?”

“You and I, my friend,” he answered. “Reportedly, we are to die.”