The Idaho State Police has opened a criminal investigation looking at whether Brandon Curtiss failed to turn over rent payments collected on behalf of clients of his property management companies.
And on Wednesday, the Idaho Industrial Commission sued Curtiss and one of his companies. The lawsuit claims Liberty Property Management has not carried workers compensation insurance on its employees since Oct. 1. The commission is asking an Ada County judge for a restraining order shutting the company down until it obtains the required insurance and for a civil penalty of $25 per day, which totaled $5,625 as of Thursday.
The probe comes after 17 people who say Curtiss owes them money met last month with two deputy attorneys general with the Consumer Protection Division at the Idaho Attorney General’s Office.
The property owners claim Curtiss, 42, the owner of Curtiss Property Management and Liberty Property Management, collected rents but did not turn the money over to them. In addition, they said he kept the rent payments and tenant deposits after the property owners canceled their management contracts with Curtiss.
“Somebody has got to stop this guy. He should be arrested,” said Edison Fong, who owns a rental home in the 2900 block of South Matthews Street in Boise that was managed by Curtiss until he was fired last month.
Curtiss, he said, owes him $2,170 in rent and for a deposit.
In an email to the Idaho Statesman, Curtiss said he would “fully cooperate” with the ISP investigation.
“I am a business owner and in business, mistake are made,” he wrote. “When a mistake has been made in my business and I have become aware of it, I have reconciled those to the best of my ability and in a timely manner. Mistakes will be made, but I have always tried to make things right.”
Curtiss claims people have unfairly maligned him and he plans to take legal action against them..
“I will not comment any further as I will not hinder the forthcoming lawsuit that is in process against those who have made false, deceitful and malicious accusations and statements against me,” he wrote.
Curtiss, the president of Three Percent of Idaho, told the Oregonian newspaper in Portland in January that he managed 100 to 150 properties. He was interviewed after he joined a group of armed men who set up a security perimeter during the occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge outside Burns, Ore.
The Better Business Bureau rates Curtiss Property Management and Liberty Property Management with an “F” grade. The BBB said the companies failed to respond to five consumer complaints filed in the past three years.
The claims against Curtiss could affect his ability to obtain debt relief through a bankruptcy filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Under federal law, a debtor’s failure to “satisfactorily explain the loss of assets or deficiency of assets to meet the debtor’s liabilities” constitutes grounds that could be used to deny bankruptcy protection.
Curtiss and his wife, Stephanie, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Feb. 3 in Boise. The couple claimed debts of $235,000, with listed assets of $13,230.
It was the third time he has sought bankruptcy protection. A Chapter 7 filing took place in 2001, followed by a Chapter 13 filing in 2009. The couple repaid $27,132 out of about $140,000 they owed before defaulting in May 2012.
Late last month, Martinique Properties of Meridian filed a complaint with the bankruptcy court asking that Curtiss not be allowed to discharge a debt of at least $20,000. The company, owned by state Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridian, says it was cheated out of rent and deposits for a pair of four-plex apartments that Curtiss managed until he was fired on Nov. 1.
In its complaint, Martinique cited a federal law that says a debt can be removed from bankruptcy protection when it involves embezzlement or fraud committed while acting in a fiduciary capacity. A person managing another person’s money has a legal duty to protect the funds and turn it over to the owner.
Acting regional U.S. Trustee Gail Brehm Geiger noted in a court filing Monday that other creditors also claimed Curtiss cheated them.
“There have been reports that debtor Brandon Curtiss managed other properties and failed to turn over funds to the property owners,” Geiger wrote.
Two of those property owners, Aaron and Leslie Boyce of the Portland area, obtained a judgment of $19,726 and $48,823 in attorney fees and costs in a civil case filed in Ada County District Court. In March 2013, the Boyces hired Curtiss to manage two four-plex apartments they bought near West Fairview Avenue and North Cloverdale Road.
Before the end of that year, he had failed to pass along rent payments and they filed suit. They have not been able to collect a cent from Curtiss, who once served as a police officer in North Idaho.
Nampa resident Lea Marie Hanson filed suit last November in Canyon County Court, seeking money she said Liberty Property Management owed after a contract ended. Last week, a judge awarded Hanson $2,632 in a default judgment.
Have a complaint?
Anyone with a claim against Brandon Curtiss, Curtiss Property Management or Liberty Property Management for property management services can file a complaint with the Idaho State Police. Contact Detective Robert Boone at firstname.lastname@example.org.