By Matthew Hendley
By Monica Alonzo
By Monica Alonzo
By Monica Alonzo
By Stephen Lemons
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Dulce Paloma Baltazar Pedraza
By Ray Stern
But Hart never signed the agreement. Instead, Hart, his family and a friend involved in Network Management Systems packed up in the middle of the night and moved to Phoenix.
Margosian says Oregon's hands are tied when it comes to punishing Hart.
"He just skipped out in the middle of the night and filed bankruptcy in another state," Margosian says. "We certainly wouldn't drag him back to Oregon if there's no money there [to compensate victims]. It's not worth the taxpayers' time."
Those who were scammed by Hart in Oregon still seethe. Ryan Enders, who had worked for Network Management Systems, says he trusted Hart because Hart had all the trappings of success.
"The first day I went to his house, and he said he owned it. It was this large, beautiful house," Enders says. "He told me he was a Little League coach for his sons' baseball team. I thought if he coached Little League, that meant he was here to stay. He had roots in the community. It was only after he took off in the night that I found out he didn't own the house and the boys weren't even his kids."
Marrs says that doesn't surprise her. Hart uses his wife and the children "as props for his shady dealings," she says.
Like Becker and others, Marrs doesn't understand why Hart hasn't been punished.
"Nobody did anything to punish him. Not the police, not the attorney general and not the labor board," Marrs says. "I couldn't even do anything if I saw him on the street. Because if I did, I'd probably be charged with assault, and I'd be the one in jail."
Robert Ovchinnkoff, Hart's last landlord in Salem, remembers going to the house the day after Hart moved out. It was August 4, 1992.
"All the people who bought into the business . . . were just standing on the porch, crying," he says.
@body:Robert Ovchinnkoff was relatively unscathed compared to Hart's other landlords. Hart claimed on his 1992 Chapter 7 bankruptcy that he owed Ovchinnkoff $2,000 for the cleanup of the house he rented in Salem.
Ovchinnkoff says Hart left his house filthy and crawling with fleas, because Hart had a cat-breeding business. The hot tub had to be repaired because cat hair had clogged the drain.
(Hart's cat-breeding business ran afoul of the Cat Fanciers' Association Inc., the nation's largest registry of pedigreed cats, which permanently suspended him. CFA members tell New Times that Hart collected deposits on pedigreed Persian cats, but often failed to deliver the animals. When he would provide promised cats, they were often too young or unhealthy. "He is barred to the point where he can't bring a cat to a show, he can't breed a cat or anything else with the association," says Judy Mollan, CFA's former northwest regional director. "They'd prefer it if he didn't even come to a show.")
Ovchinnkoff says he paid little attention to how Hart was treating the house because Hart was supposed to buy it. When Ovchinnkoff did sell the home, he says, it was for much less than he had originally intended.
Hart's first landlord in Arizona was Ted Noble, a Chicago resident who works with overseas missions projects. In a scenario eerily similar to Tanya Becker's, Noble struck a lease-purchase agreement with Hart. Hart paid the hefty first month's rent of $1,500 and the security deposit for Noble's luxurious home in Scottsdale, but failed to make further payments. Hart did send one rent check, but it bounced.
As soon as Hart moved in, he started to cause trouble. He wrote letters complaining about the condition of the house and claiming that Noble had defrauded him by saying he could use the house as an office when homeowners-association rules prohibited it. He also threatened to sue the association when it complained that two families--Hart's and his business associate's--were living in the house.
Hart claimed Noble had not provided him with association rules, and this failure muddled the legitimacy of the lease-purchase contract. "Although we have not done so, we retain the right to declare Mr. Noble in default if the CCRs [association rules] make the situation unacceptable to us, and all parties including your association could be held liable for damages," Hart wrote to the homeowners association.
Noble took Hart's blusterings in stride, and even asked if he could do anything to help his family. Hart responded with bellicose threats of lawsuits.
"The way he dealt with others, you had the feeling he knew exactly what he was doing, even though it was very crude," Noble says. "His letters were always hostile and threatening, though you felt it was mostly a smoke-in-the-face response."
Noble won an eviction judgment on December 4, 1992. Hart promptly packed up his family and belongings and disappeared.
Noble says his home was extensively damaged. Hart had not paid his water, electric or telephone bills, and to get the utilities restored, Noble was forced to pay Hart's tab. When Hart left, he did not shut off the water to the washing machine, so when water service was turned back on, it flooded the downstairs of the house and ruined the carpeting.