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Like several other investors, Detmer says he now sits on the brink of financial ruin, with his bank loans far exceeding the value of the properties. But in some ways, he says, he's lucky. He knows some investors who are out millions of dollars. Detmer estimates he's just $1.5 million in the hole.
Last month Detmer filed two lawsuits against Krempasky. The first accuses her of breach of contract after she allegedly agreed last fall to take over Detmer's debt and liabilities but failed to do so. The second alleges forgery, with Detmer's name attached to a notarized deed that he insists he never signed. The document provided him with $17,000 from the Charles Norman Trust.
"I never signed that document, and I never received any money," Detmer says.
Others tied to Hartmann and Krempasky allege that their signatures were also forged on loan documents. Coincidentally, several beneficiaries of the Charles Norman Trust believe documents involved in Norman's estate show evidence of forgery. Probate records show that a document examiner hired last year to review the public amendments to the trust concluded that several of Norman's signatures appeared inconsistent.
In a suit filed July 31 against both Hartmann and Krempasky, Reliance Bank alleges that the pair worked in tandem to deceive investors by delaying the recording of deeds. "Upon information and belief, Krempasky and Hartmann, acting as agents of DHP and on its behalf, conspired and agreed with each other and with other person whose names are unknown to commit fraud against Reliance," the suit states. "Krempasky and Hartmann acted deliberately and intentionally in furtherance of a conspiracy by and between them for the purpose of inducing Reliance to approve the loan."
Clayton attorney William Sauerwein makes similar claims in suits he's filed on behalf of a half-dozen local banks. The attorney alleges that Hartmann and Krempasky directed title closers to refrain from filing deeds on real estate so that the properties appeared free of liens when Hartmann's investors went to banks to take out additional loans.
Sauerwein, however, feels little sympathy for the bulk of the private individuals caught up in the scheme. Lured by the fantastic profits to be made with Hartmann, Sauerwein maintains, the investors became victims of their own greed, playing fast and loose with the rules in order to further profit from their investments.
"These hard-money lenders did not function in any customary way," says Sauerwein. "They did not attend closings, and they gave money to Hartmann to do what he wanted. They allowed him to roll over the loans into different properties. They were investing in Doug Hartmann, not real estate."
Cindy Rees, a rehabber currently renovating several properties tied to DHP Investments, puts it another way: "They thought they were investing in gold mines," she says. "But all they got was dirt."
On July 21 Lisa Krempasky failed to appear before the probate court for a scheduled hearing involving the Charles Norman estate and, as a result, was temporarily removed as its personal representative. But the removal was little more than a technicality.
Thomas Glick, Krempasky's attorney for matters involving the trust, says he's to blame for the missed court date, and within a week he successfully petitioned the court to reinstate his client. Yet for Krempasky's growing number of detractors, her failure to show in court only completes her disappearing act.
They say dozens of phone calls to Krempasky remain unreturned and that she now uses a P.O. box as the return address for her law practice. This past spring, Krempasky removed herself as the registered agent for the many of the limited-liability corporations she established between Hartmann and his many investors. In total, according to the Missouri Secretary of State's office, Krempasky resigned from at least six companies between February and April.
She severed ties as Hartmann's registered agent with DHP Investments in late March. On July 24 the Secretary of State's office administratively dissolved DHP Investments for failing to find a replacement. The action prohibits Hartmann from conducting further business in the state under the company banner.
In recent months city residents and politicians have taken Hartmann to task, claiming that his defunct properties have pockmarked large sections of south St. Louis with unfinished and derelict buildings. Since December 2004 St. Louis City has slapped DHP Investments with nineteen nuisance and housing violations, according to records in the St. Louis City Municipal Court.
Hartmann, too, is rarely seen anymore by his many investors, his home in O'Fallon now owned by one of the lenders to whom he owes money. Gary Detmer saw Hartmann for the first time in nearly a year at a deposition last month. Dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, Hartmann provided few clues as to what happened to his real estate investments.
"He pleaded the Fifth Amendment to everything," Detmer recalls.
While there's no record of Krempasky investing the trust funds in real estate ventures in recent months, the attorney continues to wheel and deal as a member of ITEX Corporation, the trading exchange through which she first met Chuck Norman. In recent weeks Krempasky has offered up for barter a pair of Rams football tickets, two cemetery plots in Atlanta, property in Texas and a home in Pine Lawn, according to Herb Speck, the co-owner of local ITEX affiliate the St. Louis Trade Exchange. As is the case with all of his clients, Speck says, he never asks how Krempasky obtains the items she barters.
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