Longform

The Master Bilkers

Page 3 of 7

In addition to Doyas, Orians found a succession of general contractors willing to do his bidding. Records at the Registrar's Office show that from the day IBI opened in August 1993 until it filed for bankruptcy in November 1995, five general contractors cemented deals with Orians. Orians also located a real estate broker who was willing to let him use his license, according to investigative reports.

Greg Orians, two-time convicted felon, had the whole operation, from building homes to selling them, under his control.

All he needed was cash.

Vacuum cleaners. Fire and security alarms. Home-movie setups. As one of his sons would later tell investigators, Carl Winski Jr. had hawked just about everything before moving to the Valley from Pennsylvania in 1978.

The next year, Winski and a man named Donald Mowery became partners in a company called Insurance Marketing Services. Among other things, the pair acted as mortgage brokers--middlemen who arranged commercial and residential loans, often to people who wouldn't otherwise have qualified.

In 1986, Winski and Mowery were hit with a pair of lawsuits accusing them of securities fraud for grossly overstating the value of properties they had convinced investors to finance.

One of those was a piece of land in Yavapai County that was supposed to have been transformed into a resort called Grey Copper Ranch. When the development never materialized and borrowers stopped making payments, lenders foreclosed--only to find that Grey Copper Ranch was little more than a few acres of near-worthless dirt that was, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere.

"The land was a joke," says David Ramras, who represented the Grey Copper Ranch investors. "There were these old, abandoned mine shafts all over the place--there wasn't even a road leading to it. It was completely landlocked."

Winski's sons, Brian and Carl III, or "C.J.," also were named in the suits. In 1988, Ramras questioned Brian, then a newly minted 25-year-old law school graduate, about his role in the family business.

Even though Brian had been listed as the company's qualifying broker, he claimed his law studies kept him too busy to participate in the business's day-to-day affairs. He explained how he would fly to San Diego several times each week to attend classes at the California Western School of Law, then return home to spend time with his wife, Amy, and the family.

Brian Winski also used the occasion to trumpet his own achievements, explaining how he had finished high school in just three and a half years and received his Realtor's license while still a senior. And he told how he had worked his way through Arizona State University while running his own vending-machine business.

The wunderkind would soon be able to add a far more dubious honor to his list of achievements: the Arcadia High School grad would be on the losing end of a lawsuit alleging securities fraud.

In 1988, Grey Copper Ranch investors were awarded more than $3 million against Mowery and the Winskis. Another group of investors, who had brought a similar suit arising from a separate string of deals, won a $4 million judgment against the elder Winski and Mowery. Both judgments were tripled because the lawsuits fell under the state's racketeering laws.

Mowery promptly declared bankruptcy, dissolved Insurance Marketing Services and moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, while Winski shuffled his assets to protect them from creditors. Ramras says he is still trying to collect against both of the men. Jim Nicgorski, who represented the second group of investors, says he has collected about $150,000 from Mowery so far, but has gotten little from Winski.

Ramras says he negotiated a separate settlement for Brian and C.J., because neither had significant assets at the time.

The suits never resulted in criminal charges, but Grey Copper Ranch piqued the interest of the state Banking Department, which conducted its own hearings into IMS' dealings in 1988.

Meanwhile, even while embroiled in the Grey Copper Ranch lawsuit, the Winskis were moving on to more fertile financial hunting grounds. Carl Winski had founded a new mortgage firm, and Brian Winski was listed as its president; his wife, Amy, was its vice president, while C.J. served as a broker. The new company's name, "Cambria," blended the first several letters of Carl, Amy and Brian Winski's first names.

Brian wouldn't remain the firm's president for long. During one of the Banking Department hearings on Grey Copper Ranch, Brian acknowledged that, contrary to what he had said in a sworn deposition, he was involved in the family business at every stage.

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Howard Stansfield