Dean Brewer quickly crosses the Courtyard by Marriott parking lot, glancing repeatedly over his right shoulder toward the hotel lobby.
"There's a photographer in there," he says nervously. "No photographs."
Brewer continues at a quick pace into an alley between two office buildings. He has a story to tell, but he doesn't want anybody seeing him spin his line. Plenty of people are angry with him; the last thing he wants is his photo plastered on the walls of his enemies.
The part-time weightlifting enthusiast and full-time deal maker scopes out what seems to be a perfect spot for an interview: a steel staircase hidden away on the north side of the old Arizona Heart Institute building. He turns and stops.
"What do you want to know?" he asks.
Eyes hidden behind thick-rimmed sunglasses, dressed in standard entrepreneurial issue--dark, wool suit, parti-colored tie in a fractured-glass pattern, portable telephone in the right coat pocket, black loafers--Brewer appears oddly at ease in the clandestine rendezvous.
And why shouldn't he be? Shady maneuvering has been a way of life for Brewer, the 40-year-old former president and co-owner of Charter Title Agency, which collapsed in October amid allegations of multimillion-dollar misappropriation.
Brewer's career as a mortgage broker and escrow agent has been highlighted by a series of financial firestorms that has scarred thousands of people across the country. Long before the Charter fiasco, the failure of Brewer's California mortgage company formed the focus of what has turned into a four-year federal criminal investigation.
Borrowing heavily, diverting corporate funds, taking advantage of lax government oversight and ultimately turning to the courts for protection, Brewer has been a living embodiment of the 1980s, me-first corporate lifestyle.
A money-magnet touch with investors. A teddy bear personality. A hard-to-resist smile that says, "Come on, lighten up--let's party!" It's a powerful combination, and Brewer has used it while adhering to Charlie Keating's core financial principle: Cash flow is all that matters. Few companies provide as hefty a flow of cash, with as little government regulation, as title and escrow firms. Few firms have squandered money so blatantly as Charter Title.
Now, seven weeks after state banking regulators noticed $8.1 million was missing from Charter Title's escrow accounts, Brewer says he wants to put the firm's problems behind him. He turns the alleyway interview into an informal, and incomplete, confession.
Brewer says he expects to be slapped with criminal charges stemming from Charter Title's failure. He says he's hired the best defense attorney in town--Tom Henze, who engineered James Robison's stunning acquittal in the murder of Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles.
"The people that did what was wrong are going to hang," Brewer says.
But that gloomy prediction doesn't dampen Brewer's love of a good laugh, especially when the conversation turns to Charter Title's disappearing millions. Brewer has no idea how much money is gone. But he says he has a pretty good idea of what happened.
"I'm not admitting any guilt, but in the position I was in, I was entrusted by people to guard their escrow funds," he says. "And a problem arose."
What's the problem?
"Money is missing," he explains with a hearty laugh. @rule:
@body:Charter Title's demise is no laughing matter to thousands of investors. When the state banking department finally seized Charter on October 25--after years of inaction and incompetent regulation--the dreams and financial stability of families across Arizona were thrown into turmoil.
The damage cuts across society. The victims range from wealthy real estate investors to working-class families struggling to refinance or purchase their homes. Now they face the prospect of losing their investments. Charter's collapse has stalled mortgage payments, and thousands of property-tax bills homeowners thought had been paid are in limbo.
Ron Sturdy is one of the larger losers. The $76,651 check Charter Title issued to him on October 21 is worthless.
Sturdy thought when he received the check that it meant he had successfully concluded an investment in a Mesa residential real estate project. Four days after Charter Title wrote the check, Sturdy's bank informed him that the banking department had seized Charter Title and frozen its accounts.
"That leaves me with a check for $76,651 that is essentially no good," Sturdy says.
More than 4,000 investors have money at stake with Charter Title. Some, like Todd and Rhonda Blatti of Phoenix, have only a few thousand dollars on the table.
"I was kind of in shock," says Todd Blatti, who learned that $2,400 he paid to Charter Title on October 18 for mortgage refinancing had been seized by the state. "Once I signed the papers, I thought I would be free and clear in a day or two."
Escrow companies certainly try to convince the public they are upstanding and honest. Their job is essentially to be middlemen in financial transactions. The only time most people will deal with a title and escrow company is when they purchase property.
It is the escrow company that holds the down payment when a buyer and seller are negotiating final terms. Escrow companies also handle mortgage payoffs and refinancings. Millions of dollars flow through the doors of even a small escrow company--one such as Charter Title--on any given day.
Title and escrow companies are supposed to deposit these funds in secured bank accounts. Apparently, Brewer managed to short-circuit whatever safeguards were in place.
"The weak link is he was able to get in a position of sole authority over an account with money that wasn't his," says state Senator John Huppenthal.
Huppenthal is holding informal meetings with officials from the title industry, the banking department and the Attorney General's Office to determine what happened at Charter Title and what legislation is needed to prevent such occurrences in the future.
"We have to come up with a system so that people who are putting money in a trust situation are 100 percent sure their money is safe," Huppenthal says.
That Brewer ever assumed control of Charter Title is testament to the failure of the current system, and to extraordinarily shoddy regulation by the state banking department. State regulators bent over backward to assist Charter's rapid expansion, even though they had plenty of warning about Brewer's potential to wreak financial havoc.
The banking department's ineptitude in regulating Brewer is no aberration. The department's look-the-other-way attitude has allowed unscrupulous title-company officials to abscond with $16 million since 1990. Meanwhile, Attorney General Grant Woods, who promised during his 1990 election campaign to vigorously attack white-collar crime, has taken little public action on, and made less noise about, the string of title-company disasters.
@body:Charter Title grew rapidly after Brewer took control of the company in 1991. The company expanded from 25 employees in five offices to 125 employees scattered across ten offices. Then it collapsed.
The company paid premier salaries and threw extravagant catered parties every month. It became the talk of the industry. Brewer took clients to the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby, the Final Four.
He threw parties at the company's $60,000-per-year America West Arena sky box, and occasionally chartered jets to Phoenix Suns away games. He frequently entertained clients on his 110-foot yacht, the Crystal, docked in San Diego.
"All my life has been devoted to entertaining clients," Brewer explains. "You try to get them to like you so they will give you their business."
Brewer spent lavishly while garnering clients' favor, even though he now claims to feel "pretty shitty," knowing how few of these people really liked him, and how many just wanted to wallow in his money trough.
Former Charter employees say Brewer worked at a frenetic pace, frequently shifting gears. He had a habit of constantly moving office furniture around, and it was considered amazing if you could keep his attention for more than a few minutes.
Stories swirl about Brewer throwing wild parties--sometimes on the Crystal--that included expensive prostitutes and illicit drugs. Several former Charter Title employees say they saw such activity firsthand.
Brewer vehemently insists he never uses illegal drugs. "You will not find anybody who has ever been in a position with me doing drugs. That's something I do not condone at all," he says.
A former senior associate says Brewer used money to keep a circle of friends nearby, and was especially free with cash when it came to women. "I saw him personally tip a topless dancer $1,500," the associate says.
Brewer, who is married, admits to having a girlfriend and to spending large amounts of money at topless bars. But he denies having numerous women on the side. "I have a girlfriend, not girlfriends," he says.
While many Charter employees elected to look away from the company's unusual activities because of pay and perks, competing title firms kept a close eye on Charter's operations. Before long, industry executives were wondering how the company stayed in business.
Industry observers say it is relatively easy to estimate the cash flow a title agency generates, because nearly all of the business is a matter of public record.
"We knew there was no way in the world they could be making a profit. They had to be losing money," says Robert D. Dorociak, a principal in United Title Agency.
Former Charter executives, however, claim the company was beginning to make a profit in the months before the collapse, and that there was no indication that the company was on the verge of failure.
"Bills were being paid. Salaries were being paid. Usually, when a company has problems, creditors are looking for them, checks are bouncing," say former Charter chairman Tom Eccles.
Brewer lured Eccles from a competing company to become Charter's chairman in 1992. Eccles, who had a stellar reputation in the title business, was pleased at the opportunity to assist in the growth of the small company. Eccles, however, says that he was never given the oversight responsibilities promised when he joined Charter. He now believes Brewer only wanted him on board to lend a sense of credibility to the company.
"I wouldn't have suspected anything. That may be naive, but 30 years in the business, and I didn't spot a thing," Eccles says.
@body:Soon after she started working in Charter Title's main office on Central Avenue, Julie Hendrix (not her real name) attracted the eye of R. Bruce Harshey, who had been issued a state banking department license to operate Charter Title.
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.
Eight days after Cal Star publicly announced it was under federal investigation, the company ceased operations, firing 113 workers in 11 offices scattered across six states.
As he had in the past, Brewer turned to the federal bankruptcy courts for protection, placing Cal Star in bankruptcy in August 1990. Three years later, creditors are still sorting out the mess from chaotic and incomplete records maintained by Brewer and Harshey, Cal Star's president. But one thing seems clear: The federal government would like to file criminal charges against Brewer for his role in Cal Star's demise. At least, that is what one source close to the federal investigation says, and such a contention should come as no surprise to Brewer. Since 1990, he has been using the excuse that he's under federal investigation to stall the civil suits pending against him in Orange County.
Brewer admits, through his California attorney, that the feds are ready to drop the ax; the attorney has filed court papers contending that "Brewer has every reason to fear that criminal charges may be forthcoming in the near future."
Federal investigators are focusing on Cal Star's borrowing from two savings and loan companies that later collapsed and were taken over by the Resolution Trust Corporation. Cal Star borrowed $30 million from a now-defunct Salt Lake City thrift, Williamsburg Savings Bank, but failed to repay $7.2 million of the loan. Cal Star also left ABQ Bank of Albuquerque on the hook for at least $6 million, according to court records related to Cal Star's bankruptcy filing.
Brewer says Cal Star's problems were caused by the failure of the two thrifts. When the banks collapsed, he claims, Cal Star lost its credit lines, and was unable to continue doing business.
Federal investigators say Brewer has it backward. Investigators and bankruptcy attorneys allege Cal Star's sloppy accounting and illegal operation contributed to the demise of the thrifts.
Investigators are still trying to determine where the $13 million in unpaid loan proceeds went.
"We've been tracing money in and out of various accounts of Cal Star, and we can't seem to locate a particular destination of those funds," says Jennifer Golison, an attorney working for the trustee liquidating Cal Star's debts.
Bankruptcy investigators have, however, decided one thing: Brewer spent lavishly during his years as chairman and chief executive officer of Cal Star.
"Brewer lived high on the hog," Golison says.
So far, investigators have discovered that about $1 million of Brewer's personal expenses were charged to Cal Star--including a $200,000 down payment on a golf-course home in posh Laguna Niguel, California.
Other personal expenses include $31,000 in charges on the company's American Express card for items such as a fur coat; Hawaiian vacations for Brewer's wife and kids while he traveled to New York; limousine and bodyguard services; tickets to Disneyland; and wild nights at Rick's Saloon, a Houston topless bar where thousands of dollars were spent on table-dancing women.
Bankruptcy trustees filed suit against Brewer, trying to collect some of the corporate money siphoned into his personal accounts. He refused to testify, invoking the Fifth Amendment, and the parties agreed to a settlement calling for Brewer to pay $125,000.
Brewer admits to "borrowing money" from Cal Star, but says he's done nothing wrong, pointing out that a settlement was reached with the bankruptcy court.
Two months after the FBI subpoenaed Cal Star's and Brewer's financial records, Brewer and Harshey moved their operation to Arizona. Within weeks, Brewer was negotiating to purchase Arizona Escrow and Title Co.
The state banking department seemed to think that purchase would be a fine idea.
@body:It doesn't take much to get Arizona's blessing to open a title and escrow company.
Banking department files indicate that anyone who is not a felon, who shows minimal competency in accounting and who posts a $100,000 bond can set up shop. And once in business, title-company owners have instant access to millions of dollars of cash deposited each day by the trusting public.
The state banking department's own files show it conducted what might be charitably described as a limited background check after Brewer filed to become a co-owner of Arizona Escrow.
The review asked Brewer for a cursory, four-page "statement of personal history" that doesn't even ask whether the applicant has ever filed for bankruptcy.
Harshey appears to have gotten off even easier. There is nothing in the department files to show that he submitted any statement whatsoever concerning his employment background and credit history. Yet the department apparently approved the sale of Arizona Escrow to Harshey in mid-1991.
(There is no record showing formal approval of Harshey's purchase of the stock, although court records indicate the deal was consummated in May 1991. Department records also show the state believed the former owner of the company, rather than Harshey, was still serving as president as late as May 1992. The banking department at least had a clue that Brewer could be trouble; records show the state never granted him permission to acquire shares of Arizona Escrow.)
State Banking Superintendent Richard Houseworth points to Brewer's credit report as the reason the state withheld permission to buy Arizona Escrow's stock. Although Brewer's credit report is confidential, it should have showed his 1985 personal bankruptcy filing.
The lack of formal state blessing to purchase shares of Arizona Escrow didn't pose much of a problem for Brewer.
"They never approved my purchase, but they didn't deny it, either," Brewer points out.
After Harshey bought the debt-ridden company for $150,000, he issued an equal number of shares to Brewer. Brewer then simply placed the stock in escrow with the company's attorney, Larry Wilk, who soon became Brewer's frequent social companion, court and state banking department records show.
With the ownership problem out of the way, Brewer and Harshey were free to get down to business. The first thing they did was change the name of the company to Charter Title. From then on, it was clear sailing.
Once Brewer and Harshey were in business, the banking department was more than happy to accommodate them in whatever way it could. Rather than taking a cautious approach to approving requests by Charter Title for additional branch offices, department files show several instances in which state regulators actually accelerated approval of new offices.
For example, on November 22, 1991, Stephen W. Brodine, assistant director of consumer credit, sent a memo to a department staffer directing her to make the effective date of a Charter branch license one week before it would actually be approved.
"I understand the license will be issued next week," Brodine's memo states. "Would you please back-date it to November 21, 1991."
In another instance, Shirley Gidney, the supervisor of the department's licensing section, ordered department staffers to "rush" through an application for Charter Title to open yet another branch office. Gidney's hurry-up order came two weeks before the state was forced to close down Charter Title.
When the state did receive tips that problems were brewing at Charter Title, the information was ignored. In December 1992, former Charter employee Frayda Pap told the department that there were major irregularities with Charter Title's accounting practices.
"They just blew me off," Pap says.
Another warning came last July when Pat Ihnat, Charter Title's corporate attorney, vice president and corporate secretary, resigned from the company and sent a copy of her resignation to the banking department.
Rather than contacting Ihnat to find out why she was leaving the company, banking department officials scribbled notes on her letter indicating complete befuddlement.
"Steve, what do we need to do? Anything?" Gidney scrawled.
"Nothing, as far as I know," replied Brodine.
The state's lax regulatory approach to Charter isn't too surprising, if you know how regulators handled the previous collapse of another title and escrow company--Continental Service Corp.
@body:There was no doubt that Continental Service was in violation of dozens of securities and banking laws and grossly insolvent by the time the state banking department released its May 24, 1991, bank-examination report to the firm.
The examination came more than three years after John M. Bulavinetz had purchased the company from Chase Bank of Arizona. By the time the state got around to checking on the new owner, it was too late.
A confidential banking examination obtained by New Times reveals that Bulavinetz transferred $5.8 million from Continental Service to another company in which he shared an ownership interest. At least $3.9 million of this money was illegally transferred from Continental Service's escrow accounts, the examination report states.
Rather than seizing the company immediately after the shortages were discovered, the state banking department quietly issued a cease-and-desist order. The order, not previously made public, directed Continental Service to stop moving escrow monies to the other company, and to recover the funds already transferred.
The order proved to be worthless.
According to an unusual lawsuit filed against the state banking department--filed, in fact, by a state-appointed consultant--Continental Service, while under the watch of state regulators, continued to improperly transfer escrow funds out of the company.
"In that case, the state oversaw an 18-month Ponzi scheme," charges James C. Sell, a Phoenix financial consultant hired by the state to liquidate Continental Service after the banking department seized it in October 1992.
The illegal transfers grew to $5.84 million, Sells alleges, before the state finally stepped in and seized Continental Service--18 months after issuing its cease-and-desist order.
"The state had done an investigation and had discovered what had occurred," Sells says. "Then they let [Continental Service] continue to operate under their overview for a period of 18 months. The net effect is that they created a whole new class of victims."
Sells is now seeking $2.3 million in damages from the state to cover losses suffered by unknowing members of the public, who unwittingly believed Continental Service was a solvent and reputable escrow company--while, in fact, it was illegally transferring money under the state's watch.
@body:The Friday before Columbus Day, Pam Eckman, an administrative bookkeeper at Charter Title, received a telephone call from an attorney representing Stephens Brothers Partnership, a Litchfield Park real estate investment group. The attorney was concerned about the location of $1.5 million in partnership funds that Charter Title was holding in escrow.
The money was supposed to be held in a Bank of America savings account, but it wasn't there. Court records filed by the state last month indicate the $1.5 million was transferred on July 7 to a Charter Title account at National Bank of Arizona, where it was mixed with other company escrow funds.
At the time, Eckman didn't know about the transfer. She says she asked Brewer what happened to the Stephens money.
"He said he moved it to another account to get better interest," Eckman says.
Brewer, Eckman says, promised to produce a bank statement, but never did. Meanwhile, the Stephens Brothers' attorney was also pressing for a statement.
The Stephens Brothers' money, plus interest, suddenly reappeared in the Bank of America account on October 12.
Eckman continued to approach Brewer about the problems she was discovering with Charter's books.
"He was begging me for my help, to help him fix it," Eckman says. "He apologized for all the mess."
Eckman says she told Charter Title vice president Steve Johnston about the unusual money movements. Eckman says Johnston was "shocked" when she told him of the problems and at first wanted to know whether the company could be salvaged.
Johnston says he initially thought Eckman's concerns could be an accounting error. But as she provided more documentation, he became increasingly concerned and consulted his attorney. He says he spent the weekend of October 16 reviewing the situation.
"The following Monday, I checked some things out that definitely didn't look right, and that's when I made the decision to go to the banking department," Johnston says.
Johnston and Eckman say Harshey tried to sweep aside the problems they had discovered.
"I had the accountant [Eckman] check on some things. She came back and it just was looking bleaker and bleaker," Johnston says. "Bruce wasn't reacting that it was bleaker and bleaker.
"He was saying, 'Well, we can still fix this.'"
Johnston and Eckman went to the banking department separately on the afternoon of Wednesday, October 20. The banking department had already been alerted to a possible problem at Charter Title by an anonymous letter.
Banking examiners were inside Charter Title's office while Johnston and Eckman were giving their accounts to state Banking Superintendent Richard Houseworth. Midway through Johnston's interview, he received a telephone message from an attorney for Charter Title. The message said Johnston had been fired.
@body:A source familiar with the postmortem examination of Charter Title says the diversion of escrow money goes back to 1992, when about $3 million was shifted out of the firm's escrow accounts.
Investigators have discovered that millions of dollars were transferred out of escrow accounts with a laptop computer. Checks also were used to funnel money into other companies, the source says.
At least some of the money was transferred into a company--CTA Financial Corporation--set up in 1992 by Brewer and Harshey, the source says.
Tracing the money has been difficult, because many 1992 records are missing. Although Brewer had complete control over the finances of Charter Title, he apparently didn't take the responsibility too seriously.
"I don't think he did a balance of the books the last two years," a source reviewing the company's records says.
The banking department is expected to finish its audit of Charter Title soon. Banking Superintendent Houseworth says the report will be forwarded to the Attorney General's Office, which will determine whether to bring civil or criminal charges against officers of the company.
Houseworth expresses confidence that there is enough smoke around Brewer's activities to warrant a criminal probe.
"I believe there is very definite grounds and opportunity to further investigate Mr. Brewer's involvement, and the extent of his involvement, with Charter Title," Houseworth says.
While banking regulators do not really know what happened at Charter Title, or even what to do next, Brewer is hoping to break free from the financial karma he set in motion. He wants to wind up the scandal quickly.
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Brewer promises he won't be the only person to take the blame for Charter Title's collapse. "Whatever went on in there, Bruce Harshey is very knowledgeable," says Brewer.
But Harshey declines to comment, and the question remains: Where did $8 million entrusted to Charter Title go?
"What happened, happened," Brewer says. "Why it happened, who knows?"
But Brewer does know, at least to some extent. He had complete control over Charter's finances. If anybody should know where the missing money went, it's Brewer.
"I think I know where the problem is," he continues. "But I don't want to say just yet."
Then he breaks into a big grin.