By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Harshey and Brewer had done business together in California, and were co-owners of Charter Title. Harshey was the marketing professional; Brewer supplied the capital.
Before long, Hendrix would experience the type of high living that other employees at Charter Title had only heard was occurring at the top levels of the company.
According to Hendrix, she and Harshey, who is married, struck up a relationship in early 1992. Hendrix was going through a divorce, and, she says, Harshey was ready to split with his wife, as well.
Soon, Hendrix was promoted to an administrative position she admits was over her head. The perks, she says, kept coming, highlighted by Harshey's offer that the company pay for her divorce--a subsidy that totaled about $1,500.
The fling culminated on May 15, 1992, in the aftermath of a party at a Charter branch office in Scottsdale. Hendrix gives this account of that festive evening:
A few minutes after the clients and most of the employees had left, Harshey pulled up in front of the office in a limousine. He got out of the limo and walked over to Hendrix, presenting her with a $100 bill.
Harshey told everyone, "Drinks are on Julie," and suggested the party move over to Jetz, a Scottsdale nightclub. Shortly after arriving at the club, Brewer approached Hendrix, gently took her by the arm and led her outside to the limo.
"I looked in the car, and there was Bruce, so I got in. There were also two other women, who were hookers," Hendrix says. "One girl was about 19 or 20. I was very uncomfortable. Then we just took off."
Brewer and another investor in the company were also in the limo, she says.
"We drove and drove and drove," she says.
Before long, Hendrix says she was offered pills that others in the limo were taking.
She says she declined to participate in the festivities, and asked to be taken back to her car, which was parked at the nightclub.
Harshey declined to be interviewed for this story.
Brewer says he doesn't believe prostitutes were present, but he doesn't remember what happened that night after going to Jetz, either.
@body:Debt seems to mean little to Brewer. It's access to cash that matters. Just as Charlie Keating built a $7 billion banking, hotel and land empire out of debt, Brewer has crafted an affluent lifestyle using other people's money.
The only real difference between the two is scale. And one other small fact--Keating is in prison.
Brewer graduated with an accounting degree from California State University--Fullerton in 1977 before taking a job with the accounting firm of Peat Marwick Main & Co. in Newport Beach, California. He left the firm in 1980, deciding to get into a California real estate market that had begun to surge.
Although licensed as an accountant, Brewer had a remarkably difficult time keeping his personal finances in balance. In November 1985, he was forced to file for personal bankruptcy, as lawsuits and judgments from disgruntled lenders and business partners mounted.
Brewer's bankruptcy filing provides a shocking view of his complete enchantment with debt, and of the bankruptcy court's willingness to forgive past sins. Brewer's filing shows he had been earning $4,000 per month. But even with this middle-class salary, Brewer managed to ring up $1.2 million in unsecured debt, plus another $429,000 in secured liabilities.
He owed the Internal Revenue Service $50,000 in back taxes; the State of California was due $11,500. He had more than $330,000 in loans from one of his employers, Yorba Linda Mortgage Co. The loans had fallen into default.
Brewer's wallet was jammed with credit cards that had been "maxed out." The total debt on personal credit lines and credit cards, advanced by banks from Maryland to California: $62,595. Prior to the filing, the family home, saddled with four mortgages totaling $180,000, had been seized. So had the $19,000 Mercedes-Benz and the $1,500 car phone.
The bankruptcy court, looking kindly on Brewer, dismissed all his debts, except for $45,000 he borrowed on his taxes and his fourth mortgage. With $20 in his pocket and another $260 in the bank, Brewer started a new mortgage company.
Brewer's company, Westgates Mortgage, soon began attracting talented employees by offering high wages, lucrative stock deals and other perks. Five of those employees have since filed lawsuits in Orange County (California) Superior Court, alleging Brewer engaged in illegal activity while operating Westgates Mortgage and a successor firm, Cal Star Financial.
The employees allege Brewer withheld corporate records from company officers, misrepresented his ownership of Cal Star Financial to private investors, illegally tapped corporate mortgage funds for personal use and submitted forged documents to federal agencies. The employees charge that after they brought these problems to Brewer's attention, he took action to have them forced out of the company.
Brewer dismisses the allegations as nothing but the rumblings of disgruntled former employees. "They are all without merit," he says.
Whether those allegations are true remains to be seen. The claims have been placed on hold until a matter of greater importance is resolved.
@body:Just as Brewer's personal finances collapsed in 1985, Cal Star Financial went down in flames in early 1990.
The previous disaster, however, had been triggered by civil court litigation. Cal Star's demise came on the heels of a sweeping, federal grand jury investigation.