West Ada

Idaho patriot group leader filed bankruptcy after Malheur visit

Brandon Curtiss speaks to reporters at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge after he and other armed members of the Pacific Patriot Network from Idaho, Washington and Oregon arrived at the wildlife refuge outside Burns, Ore., on Jan. 9.
Brandon Curtiss speaks to reporters at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge after he and other armed members of the Pacific Patriot Network from Idaho, Washington and Oregon arrived at the wildlife refuge outside Burns, Ore., on Jan. 9. The Oregonian

When Brandon Curtiss visited the Malheur Wildlife Refuge outside Burns, Ore., in January, he told a reporter from The Oregonian newspaper he had “built a property management company from scratch.”

Curtiss, 42, founder and president of Three Percent of Idaho, had joined a group of armed men who set up a security perimeter near the refuge. He told The Oregonian they were there to form a buffer zone between occupation leader Ammon Bundy, of Emmett, the FBI and the Harney County sheriff to de-escalate the situation and prevent a massacre.

The Idaho group, which promotes “freedom, liberty and the Constitution,” according to its website, said it did not condone the 41-day occupation. Members said they came to Burns to protest the prison sentences of local ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond for arson on federal land.

The owner of Curtiss Property Management in Meridian, Curtiss told the reporter he managed 100 to 150 properties, yet records show he has left a trail of unpaid bills and was sued by the owners of two properties he managed for failing to turn over rent money he collected from apartment residents.

Curtiss initially could not be reached for comment for this report. In an email to The Idaho Statesman on Monday, he said the story did not represent “the facts as they are.” When asked to elaborate, he declined.

Three weeks after speaking to The Oregonian reporter, Curtiss filed for bankruptcy protection — for the third time. In a deposition for one of the lawsuits he said there were no shareholder payouts because the management firm “is not a profitable company.”

A group of anti-government ranchers and activists seized buildings at a rural Oregon federal wildlife refuge on January 2. The heavily-armed group drew criticism from locals and support from militia groups. On February 11, the last occupier turned

Curtiss and his wife, Stephanie, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Feb. 3 in Boise. The Meridian couple claims debts of $235,000, with listed assets of $13,230. This filing follows a 2009 bankruptcy in which Curtiss owed about $140,000 and a 2001 filing from which documents are not available.

The bulk of Curtiss’ $186,286 in credit card debt, collection agency charges and bank loans were incurred between 2013 and 2015, according to bankruptcy court documents. Of that, $84,458 was for vehicle leases taken out in 2014 and 2015: a 2015 Dodge Ram pickup, a 2012 Chrysler car and a 2014 Open Range travel trailer. The pickup and the trailer were leased by the property management company, which is not involved in the bankruptcy.

There was also $31,377 in medical charges. The largest bill, $24,011 from St. Luke’s, was incurred in November.

Curtiss also owes $1,800 in child support payments dating back to 1992, according to the petition.

He listed $2,300 in monthly income from his business. His wife listed $3,700 in monthly income from her work as a hair stylist.

A Portland-area couple, Aaron and Leslie Boyce, hired Curtiss in March 2013 to manage two four-plex apartment buildings they bought near West Fairview Avenue and North Cloverdale Road. Curtiss found tenants for the newly built units and collected security deposits and $6,670 in monthly rent. He was paid 5 percent as his monthly fee.

Curtiss made accounting mistakes that led to shortages in the amount of money he turned over to the Boyces, they said. For instance, they said, one tenant was charged pro-rated rent rather than the full amount. The owners also claimed they were charged for utility costs that should have been billed to the tenants and that he improperly retained late fees.

By November 2013, Curtiss failed to remit any rent money, although he claimed to have twice mailed checks to the Boyces. He said he used an overnight delivery service but had no receipts. He later made a partial payment but continued to collect rents after the Boyces canceled their contract and had another management company take over, according to court records.

In a civil case decided late last year, Ada County District Judge Patrick Owen awarded the Boyces $19,726, plus $48,823 in attorney fees and costs. The judgment was against the property management company, so it is not part of the bankruptcy.

Owen said the case was a “typical breach of contract action,” but became “exceptional” because of Curtiss’ behavior.

“Curtiss avoided service for over a month, missed the deadline to respond to the complaint, agreed to mediate, but then just prior to mediation, refused to participate even though the Boyces had purchased plane tickets to attend the mediation,” Owen wrote.

The judge went on to say that Curtiss, who once spent a decade as a police officer in North Idaho, created such a conflict that his attorney withdrew from the case, causing additional costs and delays. Curtiss also failed to deposit $12,016 from a partial pre-trial judgment into a court trust account as directed by Owen.

“He has not paid us a dime,” Leslie Boyce said. “Hiring him was the worst, most costly mistake we’ve ever made. Battling Brandon Curtiss in court for two years to get our money back wiped out our savings and caused a great deal of stress.”

A second property owner, Martinique Properties, filed suit against Curtiss last November. That lawsuit was placed on hold by the court after Curtiss and his wife filed for bankruptcy. They listed $20,000 in potential debt from the lawsuit that they hope to have discharged in the bankruptcy.

Nampa resident Lea Marie Hanson filed suit last November in Canyon County Court, seeking $2,508 in money she said Curtiss owed her after her contract with him ended. That claim is also listed in Curtiss’ bankruptcy filing.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @IDS_Sowell