Patricia Gilroy invested in a rapper and wound up bankrupt.
Patricia Gilroy never listened to Saginaw-based hip hop artist Papa Wiz T, a.k.a. Ariz Staton.
She never played his CD. She never tried to go see him perform in concert. She doesn’t even like that kind of music – she prefers jazz, rock or country.
“I had the CD. I don’t like it. I had absolutely no interest in that kind of music at all,” Gilroy said.
Nonetheless, through her then-boyfriend, Patrick Feeney, Gilroy invested around $80,000 in what she hoped was a way to double her money through the promising career of an up-and-coming rapper and his record label, New Trend Records.
That was 2003. Papa Wiz T never made it to the top of the charts. And Gilroy never got the return she was promised. She never saw any of that money again.
Now Gilroy blames that investment on the unraveling of her finances.
She lost the home she built on the Old Mission Peninsula. She lost her business, French Manor Senior Living, an assisted living facility in Traverse City, when a bank note came due and she had no cash. The business is currently operated by different owners.
“If I would have had that extra $80,000 laying around, I would have had some extra money to deal with the bank,” Gilroy said.
Gilroy says when she met Feeney the pair hit it off. She thought they were both successful, of strong faith, and trustworthy.
“I thought I had connected with a genuine individual,” Gilroy said.
She dated Feeney and soon he moved into her house. That was March, 2003.
That January he wanted to buy an expensive hunting dog, Gilroy said, and she wrote a check. She says now that should have been the first red flag.
But she was still smitten when Feeney approached her with an investment. He offered her a way she could double her money. Feeney wanted Gilroy, a woman making her living in the elder care industry in Northern Michigan, to become a hip hop investor.
Feeney told her about a rap artist he worked with.
Papa Wiz T had a CD from 2001, apparently a self-released album. Some of the tracks listed on amazon.com for the album One Painted Story include “Everybody Like Some Kind Of Music,” “Blackside Of Life,” “Yall Don’t Know” and “Controlling Or Holding.” Track number seven is called “I’m Not Guilty (True Story).”
Gilroy signed over around $86,000 to Feeney and New Trend Records, a decision Gilroy now deeply regrets.
“I lost my home in bankruptcy due to this whole mess,” she says.
A listing for New Trend Records in Saginaw was disconnected and Ariz Staton could not be reached for comment.
Feeney said his attorney advised him not to comment because he is involved in a bankruptcy case related to the dispute.
In 2009, years after Gilroy was supposed to receive double what she invested, Gilroy filed a lawsuit against Feeney and Ariz Staton.
A process server working in Saginaw could never locate Staton to serve him the lawsuit. The lawsuit was dismissed against him and New Trend.
In the lawsuit, Gilroy sought not only her original investment, but also the 100 percent return she was promised.
Her attorney, Joseph Mollica, argued the case involved breach of contract and fraud.
“Patrick and Wiz were aware, at the time they made the representations to Gilroy, that they would be unable to pay Gilroy,” Mollica wrote. “Patrick and Wiz made such representations to Gilroy in order to induce her to make the loan to them.”
When Feeney answered the suit, his first several arguments dealt with technicalities in the law.
First he argued that he shouldn’t be on the hook for anything more than what was loaned.
Feeney and Ariz and New Trend were lent $86,210, and the rest was interest. What’s more, Feeney argued, it was illegal interest, because it exceeded what a person is allowed to charge for a loan. It was “usurious,” he wrote.
He also argued the money was invested in New Trend, not loaned to him.
Feeney also argued that merely not paying back money doesn’t constitute fraud. He said Gilroy would have to prove he acted in bad faith when the contract was signed, something he asserted she would not be able to do. Just because you’ve broken a promise, he argued, doesn’t mean you’ve committed fraud.
“Plaintiff was an experienced businesswoman who understood the relationship between risk and interest rates. She well knew that her loan to New Trend was highly speculative,” he wrote.
‘KNEW I DID NOT HAVE THE MONEY’
Later in his pleadings Feeney made a very different kind of argument.
Feeney said in his court filing that he began dating Gilroy in the fall of 2002 and they moved in together in March of 2003 into the house she was building.
He said he lived there until July of 2006. When he met Gilroy, he was already working for Staton and New Trend Records.
“Throughout our relationship, plaintiff and I would discus the business of New Trend Records,” Feeney wrote.
In June of 2003 he said he began working for Gilroy at the French Manor and he helped Gilroy construct her Old Mission Peninsula home, acting as an intermediary between Gilroy and the building contractor.
Feeney said he saw first-hand that Gilroy was a knowledgeable business woman capable of understanding investments.
That first note, the one from September, 2003, could not be repaid when it was due, Feeney wrote.
“Plaintiff was understandably upset.
Because we lived together and because I worked for her, plaintiff knew I did not have the money to repay her,” Feeney wrote.
Feeney said they drew up a new note in November 2003 to replace the earlier one.
This time Aziz Staton and New Trend Records were the guarantors and Feeney only signed as an officer of New Trend, Feeney said, an arrangement he said made sense because by now Gilroy must have understood that if she was going to get paid, the money wasn’t going to come from Feeney.
When the repayment date for that note came and went, Gilroy still did not see a nickel.
Meanwhile, Gilroy prepared to have a child by artificial insemination.
“Plaintiff was, again, understandably upset when she did not receive payment under the terms of the November note. Nonetheless, I continued to live with plaintiff for two and a half years after the payment was due,” Feeney wrote. “I continued to work for plaintiff. I was her birth coach in October of 2004 when her son was born. I was the first person to hold him, served as his primary caregiver, and raised him as if he were my own son until plaintiff ended our relationship in July of 2006.”
Feeney said he’s been mischaracterized by Gilroy.
“Plaintiff’s complaint attempts to paint a picture of me as some conspiratorial schemer who swooped in, stole plaintiff’s money, and then slunk away in the night,” he wrote. “That is simply not the case.”
Feeney said Gilroy wanted to make a buck and she thought she could strike it rich in the world of hip hop.
“Plaintiff was very willing to loan money to New Trend in the hopes of getting a big return. Even after New Trend failed to pay on the note, she entered into another speculative investment arrangement...”
COULDN’T GET RID OF HIM
Gilroy says this is not a fair characterization of their relationship.
She said that Feeney stuck around after the deal went bad not because she wanted him to, but because she couldn’t get rid of him. Gilroy said she continued through 2007 to give Feeney smaller amounts of money.
“I couldn’t get him out of my house,” Gilroy said. “I was hanging on and hanging in there to get my money back.”
When she filed for bankruptcy she finally got rid of Feeney, she said.
“I kicked his butt out,” she said. She said she had tried to get rid of him sooner but he always returned. “I dropped him off in the driveway” of his parents’ house, she said.
In the end, Feeney gave up trying to fight the lawsuit Gilroy filed against him over the investment.
Toward the end of the lawsuit, Mollica, Gilroy’s attorney, withdrew from the case for medical reasons, leaving Gilroy on her own.
Then Feeney failed to appear at a courtordered mediation and Circuit Court Judge Thomas Power ordered a default judgment against Feeney in September 2010 for $172,989.
If things had suddenly appeared to have turned in favor of Gilroy, it didn’t last long, however.
In the meantime, Feeney filed for bankruptcy.
‘JUST DIDN’T MAKE ANY SENSE’
Rory Mortimer, an attorney with offices in Alpena and Petoskey, looked at the contracts between Gilroy and Feeney and he thought it looked like Gilroy was the victim of a scam.
“I believe there was no chance for that venture to get off the ground,” Mortimer said. “It’s unfortunate she didn’t have someone look at the papers ahead of time.”
Mortimer said some aspects of the contract looked outright false, such as a provision that money would be held in escrow by the Securities and Exchange Commission before Gilroy was paid.
“It just didn’t make any sense,” Mortimer said.
The difference between a bad investment and a scam is that in a bad investment, the investor has all the information up front about what they are getting into, Mortimer said.
“I’m quite certain the Securities and Exchange Commission was not involved in this case,” Mortimer said.
The case is currently being argued in bankruptcy court where Gilroy is seeking to be included among creditors and Feeney is fighting to have the debt discharged.