The Amarillo Independent
The principals in the development firm that the Amarillo City Commission is considering as the master developer for downtown revitalization are no strangers to litigation, with one of the firm’s showcase Houston area projects the subject of a foreclosure and lawsuit. And, those same principals, David G. Wallace, and Costa Bajjali, are on the periphery of an ongoing Securities and Exchange Commission fraud investigation.
Last Tuesday, Wallace, co-founder and chief executive officer of Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, Inc., impressed city commissioners and staff with a presentation touting his experience with developments in his hometown of Sugar Land, where he served as mayor until 2008. He also touted his firm's developments in other cities, including Waco and the Houston area.
(See the video of Wallace’s presentation here.)
But at least one development has soured — the Creekmont Plaza mixed use commercial development in Fort Bend County.
According to a petition filed June 10, 2010, Frost National Bank foreclosed on the Creekmont Plaza Development in Missouri City.
The two men took out a loan of more than $1.9 million with Frost in August 2008 as the general and limited partners in Creekmont Plaza Partners, L.P. and personally guaranteed the loan.
“Despite demand for payment of the balance due, Mr. Wallace and Mr. Bajjali have failed to pay the balance due,” the petition alleges.
The petition states that the property was sold in a foreclosure sale in April at the Fort Bend County Courthouse. But the sale, which brought $1.1 million, was almost $820,000 short of the loan amount. At that time, taxes on the property were also overdue.
“The delinquent taxes for the years 2007 through 2009 were in the amount of $157,494 if paid on March of 2010, plus the 2010 taxes and the Defendants are jointly and severally liable to Plaintiff for the taxes plus interest thereon as allowed by law,” the petition alleges.
The petition asks for payment of the shortfall of the sale, interest, court costs and lawyer’s fees.
All the defendants have entered a general denial and, as of Monday, the case is set for trial in March 2011, according to Harris County District Court records.
A search of additional Harris County District Court records shows Wallace involved in several other lawsuits, including litigation in 1995 with Mark Thatcher, son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Wallace’s former business partner in several United States-based businesses.
How much Downtown Amarillo, Inc. is aware of all the court actions isn’t clear.
Melissa Dailey, executive director of Downtown Amarillo, Inc., said she had done “quite a bit” of background research on the firm. She said she had not looked into the Thatcher alliance in detail, but added, “I’m more interested in his development activities here in the United States.”
When asked about a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, she said she was “aware of the situation.”
It has little negative reflection on Wallace Bajjali, Dailey said, adding, “In fact, it’s a positive.”
Daily wouldn’t discuss the matter further, saying instead Wallace would talk about it when he was in Amarillo in the next week or two “because he knows the details much more intimately than I do.”
Several calls and repeated messages left for Wallace for comment were not returned.
The SEC investigation focuses on Kaleta Capital Management, or KCM, a Houston business known as BizRadio, and may yet reach Wallace and Bajjali or some of their business entities.
The year-old litigation — the SEC filed suit Nov. 13, 2009 — names Albert Kaleta and KCM as defendants in a claim that they defrauded investors of $10 million.
According to a July 2010 update on the receivership website, “Based upon the recent inclusion of BizRadio in the Receivership Estate, negotiations have now been commenced with respect to potential liability of the Wallace Bajjali entities and their principals with respect to investments by members of the public in BizRadio directly, and in other related investment vehicles. To date no agreements have been reached with respect to these matters.”
On Monday, Thomas L. Taylor III, the Houston attorney who is overseeing the SEC-ordered receivership of KCM, said neither Wallace nor Bajjali or their entities are yet named in any of the court papers but he would also neither confirm nor deny that they could be pulled into the federal investigation at a later time.
In negotiations with Taylor, Wallace has paid back $92,348 and Bajjali has paid back $45,550 to date, according to the publicly available information.
Taylor said negotiations are ongoing about further repayments by Wallace and Bajjali.
Nevertheless, DAI’s Dailey said Monday, “We have not come across anything negative. When we looked into it in detail, it all was positive.”