The strip club owner walked out of his house with an AR-15 and a flashlight.
On his driveway, two repo men were tampering with his armored truck.
"Come out, my little rabbits," Todd Borowsky shouted into the night as the repo men dashed into the desert behind his house. At some point, Borowsky fired a shot.
Hours later, police found Borowsky in a Talking Stick Resort suite with $26,000 cash. They arrested him on suspicion of aggravated assault and booked him in Maricopa County Jail on $500,000 bond.
Nobody is disputing that Borowsky shot an AR-15 on the night of his arrest, but his case took several unexpected turns as it played out in the courts over the next 13 months.
Following two cases built on misleading grand jury testimony, Maricopa County prosecutors dropped felony charges against Borowsky. Borowsky attempted to present an alternate version of events, casting himself as the victim and a shady Phoenix pawnbroker as the villain. And now he's suing that pawnbroker and others who he says are responsible for his legal troubles.
Borowsky — Snowbowl scion, Skin Cabaret proprietor, and Scottsdale preservationist — spent two months in jail and faced three aggravated assault charges for the 2018 incident, which arose from a loan dispute with convicted fraudster Mark Brooks.
Borowsky was indicted by a grand jury in February. After prosecutors discovered inconsistencies in their witness statements, another grand jury indicted Borowsky on the same charges in May. Then a judge ruled that the prosecution "knowingly" presented misleading testimony during the second grand jury presentation.
On January 22, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Fish called for a third grand jury hearing.
Instead, prosecutors dropped charges against Borowsky.
The Maricopa County Attorney's Office declined to address questions from Phoenix New Times, including one asking whether it plans to prosecute Borowsky again.
"Our prosecutors are limited by ethical rules on what they can say to the media. So until a case is resolved, they usually decline interviews," said Amanda Steele, a spokesperson for the office. "That is true in this instance."
Court documents present two starkly different stories of what happened at Borowsky's home in late January 2018.
Prosecutors painted Borowsky as a menacing drunk, prone to threatening behavior, shooting at agents who were lawfully repossessing his cars.
Borowsky's attorneys held up their client as a victim of theft, defending his home from trespassing burglars hired by a jealous and criminal pawnbroker. (In 1999, Brooks was convicted in Arizona of criminal damage, forgery, and fraudulent schemes and practices.) They claimed Borowsky had not defaulted on the loans that he secured with his cars.
“It boggles my mind that Phoenix PD will not investigate this theft when they already have evidence that Mark Brooks knew that night that he had no right to repossess those vehicles,” Alan Cook, one of several criminal defense attorneys representing Borowsky on his case, told New Times. “This is an intentional theft by a guy with a criminal record."
On the evening of January 30, Brooks, his business partner Robert Johnson, and the two repo men, Francisco Nunez and Stephen Randall, showed up at Borowsky's home on East Cholla Lane, situated directly across from a popular hiking trail on Camelback Mountain.
Brooks had loaned Borowsky $200,000 to help him keep up with his businesses. Borowsky had put up his 2005 Lamborghini and fully armored 2007 GMC Yukon Denali as collateral for the loans.
Before the attempted repossession, Brooks had told his business partner, Johnson, that Borowsky defaulted on the loans. But after the second grand jury presentation, prosecutors learned Brooks later told Johnson that Borowsky wasn't in default that night after all, calling into question a key premise of the criminal case.
Walking onto Borowsky's property, Nunez and Randall triggered his home alarm system, which he installed after a home invasion in 2015. The alarm woke Borowsky up. He looked out his back window to see one man tampering with his Denali and another at his back door. Panicking, Borowsky hit a button on his security system to call the police.
Phoenix police officers responded to Borowsky's alarm system call at 10:45 p.m.
Borowsky appeared intoxicated. He told the officers his side of the story and asked them to produce a police report on the spot. Both sides concede Borowsky became frustrated with the officers after they told him that they did not have the capacity to instantly generate a police report.
Detective Christina Begay, who investigated the case after Borowsky's arrest, misled a grand jury about what happened next, Fish ruled. Begay told jurors Borowsky said, "Get off my property."
Body camera footage shows Borowsky said no such thing. Instead, he told the cops, "Gentlemen, I'm not going to argue with you."
The officers then left the property. But they soon encountered Johnson and the two repo men, who were parked near Borowsky's home on Cholla Lane. Johnson told the officers that Borowsky had handed over his keys, allowing them to take the vehicles during their first confrontation with him. When the cars wouldn't start, Johnson said Borowsky pulled a handgun out of his waistband and threatened the repo men, prompting them to flee the property.
But Nunez and Randall both told Phoenix police on April 25, months after Borowsky's first indictment, that the strip club owner never pulled a gun during their first interaction. The men also denied that Borowsky gave them the keys to his cars and that Johnson was even on the property at the time.
After discussing the confrontation, officers advised Johnson to wait for a less volatile situation to repossess Borowsky's vehicles, citing the strip club owner's demeanor and specifying that "today may not be the best evening." Begay, Judge Fish noted, only told the grand jury that Johnson "was simply told to try another time."
The repo men and pawnbrokers waited about 90 minutes to try again. At 12:35 a.m. on January 31, Johnson and the men returned to Borowsky's home. Brooks and his girlfriend, MacKenzie Pate, parked on the north side of the house on Cholla Lane.
As the repo men walked onto the strip club owner's property, Borowsky's alarm system activated a second time, waking him back up. He grabbed his AR-15 and walked out of his home.
“Come out, my little rabbits,” Borowsky shouted, according to court documents, as Nunez and Randall ran into the desert behind his home. “I have a gift for you. Come meet my AK.”
Johnson told police that he was parked on Cholla Lane when he saw Borowsky's rifle. He said he pulled his vehicle into Borowsky's driveway, while shouting Borowsky's name. Johnson said that as he backed out onto the street, he observed Borowsky fire his rifle.
But a transcript of a 911 call made by Johnson contradicts what he told police, according to Fish's ruling. Johnson told a dispatcher that, as he was pulling onto the driveway, Borowsky walked toward him with a rifle. "Gosh, I thought he was going to blow my brains out," Johnson said.
He told the dispatcher that he was sitting safely in his car on Cholla at the time of the call. According to the 911 transcript, Johnson suddenly interjected, "Holy shit. Shots fired. Shots fired."
When the dispatcher attempted to determine whether Borowsky fired from inside or outside his home, Johnson said he didn't know.
After the pawnbrokers and repo men left his property, Borowsky went back inside his home. Police officers showed up and surrounded his home for an unknown amount of time before leaving "in the interest of safety," according to a court document filed by prosecutors.
A fugitive task force later found Borowsky passed out drunk at a Talking Stick Resort suite with "tens of thousands of dollars in a bag." He was arrested and booked into Maricopa County jail on $500,000 bond.
Just before Borowsky was set to be released with an ankle bracelet, on March 20, prosecutors accused the strip club owner of selling drugs in his businesses to raise bail money. They relied on information from Scottsdale Police, according to court documents. A spokesperson for the Scottsdale Police Department told New Times that he could find no reports of a Borowsky drug investigation.
“Here the state makes a serious allegation for which it has provided no proof, no police report, no names of witnesses, and no sources,” wrote another one of Borowsky's criminal defense attorneys, in response to the prosecution's allegation of drug activity.
Thomas Baker, a hunting license attorney, wired $500,000 for Borowsky's bond on March 23, 2018, records show. Borowsky was subsequently released.
It's unclear whether prosecutors will attempt to re-indict Borowsky after their first two failed attempts.
On February 19, Borowsky filed a motion to compel Phoenix police to return all property seized from him on the night of his arrest, including his guns. Judge Fish this month ordered the state to return Borowsky's belongings if it does not re-file charges against him within 90 days.
If they prosecute Borowsky again, a civil suit that the strip club owner filed against Brooks in January would likely complicate their case.
According to a racketeering lawsuit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, Brooks orchestrated an elaborate scheme to take advantage of the strip club owner's alcoholism, setting off a chain of events destined to lead to his arrest, in an attempt to force him into default and thereafter take possession of his businesses.
The $200,000 in loans were all made in Brooks' name but were funded by Brooks, Johnson, and a third party named David Hurowitz.
In addition to offering his Lamborghini and Denali as collateral, Borowsky also secured his loans with Skin Cabaret's liquor license and a 1971 Chevelle convertible that he purchased from Mötley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx. Borowsky claims that Brooks also placed a fraudulent lien on the liquor license for another Scottsdale strip club he owns, Bones Cabaret.
On January 22, 2018, Borowsky sold a $250,000 lease interest in a building with the intention to use that money to pay off his loans from Brooks. He notified Brooks via text message that he had the money and planned to pay it before his February 2 deadline.
Brooks and his girlfriend, Pate, showed up at Borowsky's home on January 27 under the guise of discussing the payment, according to the lawsuit. Borowsky was intoxicated at the time of the visit. Brooks and Pate allegedly took the keys to Borowsky's Lamborghini and Denali.
On January 30, the day of the confrontation that led to Borowsky's arrest, the strip club owner asked the pawnbroker via text where he should send a loan payoff check. Brooks responded that he would respond that night.
"Do not come near my house or business, have ur lawyer contact," Borowsky wrote back. Brooks replied that he would be spending the night with his child.
He did not spend the night with his child. Brooks handed the allegedly stolen keys to Randall and Nunez to help them repossess Borowsky's vehicles, a stark contradiction to prosecutors' claim that Borowsky handed them his keys. Knowing that Borowsky would be drunk, he joined Johnson and the two repo men in the escapade that would eventually lead to Borowsky's criminal charges.
The lawsuit also claims that Brooks had access to Borowsky's security system. Brooks allegedly assisted Borowsky in setting up the system after Borowsky's 2015 home invasion, and listed himself as a contact person.
Brooks allegedly attempted to have the alarm company shut off Borowsky's system before the repossession attempt, according to the lawsuit, but was told he did not have the authority to do so remotely. But once the alarm went off a second time, Borowsky claims, Brooks gave the company his passcode and told a representative to "disregard [the alarm and] put it on test for the next hour."
The alarm company complied, and police did not show up in response to the alarm.
Brooks could not be reached for comment. Borowsky wouldn't comment on the record.
(Clarification: Detective Begay, who investigated the case, was not among the officers who responded to the scene on January 30.)
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