Castle Rock, CO
Most People may not be aware that Thomas Girard Martino lives in Douglas County. If you drive on Parker Road toward Franktown, CO, you will see an electric gate with a sign stating “Fox Creek Private Country Estates”. A long, paved road winds up and over a hill. Mr. Martino and his current wife Holly reside on Fox Creek Trail behind the electric gate. The six bedroom house has 10,758 square feet. The basement alone is 3,611 (finished) square feet. The joint is huge!
Mr. Martino is well known along the Front Range as “The Troubleshooter.” His company, Troubleshooter Network, Inc., stated a monthly gross income of $202,625.00 on its most current corporate financial statement. Martino takes a $300k annual salary and his wife Holly takes $250k from the company. Life was good until a few years ago.
Last week’s Denver Post alerted the public to Tom Martino’s, aka the Troubleshooter’s, bankruptcy. Not only bankruptcy but chapter 7, the most drastic chapter in the book. Why Chapter 7? Because he is being chased by a creditor.
In 2008, the U.S. economy was in the tank. Wall Street firms were in their death throes. Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns didn’t survive. The stock market saw 700 point declines and hundreds of thousands of U.S. workers were laid off each month. Apparently, Mr. Martino decided to roll the dice and “buy while the cannons are firing”.
Martino formed a new company, Parker Tech Center, LLC. The company’s business address was his home on Fox Creek Trail. On September 12, 2008 he borrowed almost three million dollars from a bank to roll the dice. He purchased a commercially zoned lot on Plaza Drive and soon a new office building arose. The trouble for the Trouble Shooter was that he had simply guessed wrong about those firing cannons. Martino had to make approximately $20,000 in payments each and every month. He couldn’t come up with the money and quickly fell behind.
About two months into the project, Martino could apparently see the writing on the wall. He signed a quitclaim deed putting the Fox Creek property solely into his wife, Holly’s name. He apparently didn’t stop there, court records show he no longer owns his helicopter, his Bentley Arnage, his pedigreed Friesian Horses, or much of anything else. The Trouble Shooter thought that he had made himself judgment proof.
A review of County Recorder records reveals that Mr. Martino is no stranger to the use of the quitclaim deed. Since 1988, he has signed and recorded 12 of them, moving the title to his home from him to his wife, to both jointly, to him, to his wife, etc. In one amazing bit of legal juggling on April 9, 1996, Martino managed to quitclaim his home to his wife solely at 10:37 A.M. only to follow yet another quitclaim from his wife back to the two of them one minute later, at 10:38 A.M. The reasons for these legal gymnastics can only be left to your imagination.
Mr. Martino has been using the quitclaim deed strategy for 23 years but, he apparently never bothered to keep up with the changes in Colorado’s Fraudulent Transfer laws. Three years after executing the first of his 12 quitclaim deeds, our state enacted the Colorado Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act. The legislature may have been inspired by Professor Karl Llewellyn who wrote concerning the Uniform Commercial Code:
“[t]he way to write a good law is to indicate what you want to do, and you assume within reason that the persons the law deals with will try to be decent; then after that, you lay down the edges to take care of the dirty guys and try to hold them in…”
With the new Fraudulent Transfer Act, the burden of proof can shift from Creditor to Debtor if the transfer is to a relative and the debtor retains possession or control of the property. If there is no exchange of reasonably equivalent value and the debtor is insolvent, it is pretty much game, set and match with the creditor winning. Under the new law, a debtor is presumed insolvent if he is not paying debts as they become due. The debtor bears the burden of rebutting this presumption. The Colorado Legislature laid down the edges to take care of the dirty guys and hold them in. It seems that the Troubleshooter is in trouble.
We tried to talk to Mr. Martino about this article but were unsuccessful.
So how do you keep your own castle when Tom Martino can’t seem to keep his?
Obviously the first thing is to not risk everything on a business deal. But if your livelihood depends on taking chances in the business world ( real estate developer for instance), you can do some smart things to protect your home and family. One method to protect your home is to create an irrevocable trust for the benefit of your children and family. Placing your home in the trust when you are not being chased by creditors should insure that the castle is safe. This may not be that easy if you have a mortgage. A simpler method if you are not a total financial crap shooter is to put your home in a revocable living trust. The name of the living trust can be anything you want it to be, like 3178 Fox Creek Living Trust, etc. It is more difficult to find your castle if it is not in your own name. However, the best way to save your castle is to not play craps at all.
Mike Robinson is Sr. Partner at Robinson & Henry P.C., a Castle Rock Law Firm. Ph. 303-688-0944