Ed Stumpf IV had $7,500 and a good name.
He got the $7,500 from a novice investor in Atlanta and the name from his father, Edward Stumpf III. The elder Stumpf was one of the first owners of the Houston Rockets, a founder and two-time chairman of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, and one of the first chairmen of the board of trustees of Christus St. Joseph Hospital. In Texas, the elder Stumpf's name could open a lot of doors.
But once the younger Stumpf walked through those doors, he often fucked things up. In 1987, he was sentenced to three years in federal prison for filing a false statement to a bank and failure to pay income tax. He was released after two years.
In 1996, he was convicted of misdemeanor theft near Beaumont in Jefferson County for ripping off between $50 and $500 from a woman. He got a 30-day suspended jail sentence and six months probation. Court records show he used his dad's name as an alias.
In June, Stumpf went to Atlanta to secure an appraisal contract for an investor who was interested in building a hotel. The contract stated Stumpf would secure an appraiser to value the property and pitch a business plan to a Houston venture capital firm.
But his investor says Stumpf just took the money and ran. In e-mails to the investor, Stumpf said he'd refund the money through an Atlanta associate named Dennis Pack. But Pack, who served three months in federal prison for conspiracy to traffic fake Metabolife pills out of Houston, never came through with a check.
So the investor's wife contacted the Houston Press, and things got kind of weird. I wound up being accused of extortion, threatened with a spanking and forced to enter a world I can only describe as really, really retarded.
When I called Stumpf last week to ask a few questions about this relatively minor complaint, he insisted on coming in to the Press for an interview that day. And then he canceled at the last minute. And then he didn't return phone calls.
On the other hand, Pack talked. In fact, he talked so much that, even when he told me to stop calling him, he called me back and talked some more. He talked so much he consumed my dreams. He did to logic and reason what the Japanese did to Nanking.
Here's what Pack told me: "I'm going to get from Ed Stumpf the $7,500 that he took, not even take any expenses out and return the whole $7,500, then I'm going to go kick [the investor's] fucking ass. That's what I'm going to do. Because he's putting me in the middle of a lot of bullshit for nothing."
He eventually hung up on me. Then the investor's wife called to say that Pack had just threatened her husband's life. Naturally, I had to run this by Pack. (The investor asked that he not be named, out of fear that Pack would follow through on his threats.)
"I was just notified that, according to his wife...you threatened to kill him. Is that accurate?" I asked.
"No, it's not," Pack said.
"Because you just told me, 'I'm going to kick his fucking ass.'"
"There's a big difference, isn't there?"
"So okay, you may kick his fucking ass, but you're not going to kill him?"
"Of course not. He needs a spanking. He's a kid..." And here he got really upset. "Do you want me to come spank you, too?"
"No. But I thank you for that quote. That's fucking awesome."
Earlier, Pack told me he owned a newspaper in Athens, Georgia, and would write a series about this bratty investor. It turns out that Pack briefly owned a floundering Athens paper, but he sold it to a couple who ran a car detailing center next door to the paper in 2001. When I brought this up, Pack still insisted he not only owned that newspaper, but was a regular media magnate.
"I have shares in fucking five newspapers!" he screamed, not pausing to explain what that actually meant. He continued: "You print this story, and I'm going to print a fucking story that will blow your mind, okay? I swear to God. Your name is Craig Nelson? I swear to God, it'll blow your -- actually, you know what, it'll blow you out of the water!"
Bragging about owning a newspaper is one thing. But Pack adamantly denied he was the same Dennis Pack listed on the Federal Bureau of Prisons web site. He denied it even after I told him I dug up his Social Security number and birthdate, and confirmed both with the Atlanta probation officer who monitored the Dennis Pack listed on the site.
"There's a million Dennis Packs running around," Pack explained. Which may be true, but this was the only one with this Social Security number. And he was also the only one listed in numerous suits for non-payment and breach of contract in metro Atlanta court cases.
But Pack said he had a good reputation, which the Atlanta investor was ruining. So I literally begged him to fax me a Social Security number, birthdate or other verification proving he was not the same Pack. He said he'd check with his lawyer.
"He says, 'I don't want your personal information going anywhere,'" Pack said when he called back.
"That's interesting," I said. "But he was totally fine with me writing that you are the same Dennis Pack who served time in federal prison?"
"No," Pack said. "He said he will address that issue after you have written all that you are writing."
"Would you like me to speak with your lawyer directly?"
"Well, he charges $400 an hour," Pack advised. "Would you want to pay him $400?"
"That's not how it works, Dennis."
"It works in this case," he said.
I was getting the feeling that his lawyer was a six-foot-tall rabbit visible only to Dennis Pack and Jimmy Stewart. "That's not how it works," I repeated. "Lawyers charge clients. They don't charge everyone...Do you want me to talk to your lawyer or not?"
"Obviously, from what he told me, he doesn't give a shit about you. He's like, 'Go ahead, print.'"
But it turned out that Pack's phantom lawyer wasn't the only counselor on my case. When I called Stumpf to suggest he and Pack level with me about their criminal histories, he said he had been talking to his lawyers as well.
"They consider this to be extortion, Craig," he said. "And they would love to talk to you. They already are talking to some people..."
At this point I was scared. His lawyers were talking to some people!
Stumpf said he'd given his lawyers all the voicemails I left him, pleading for him to return my calls.
"And that's extortion how?" I asked.
"You're seeking payment from me for somebody who's a friend of yours," Stumpf said. He went on to explain that he discovered that I was longtime friends with the investor. It turns out that, the last time Pack called the investor to chew him out, the investor's bonehead friend had the magnificent idea to have the investor tell Pack that we were old buddies. I made a mental note to get that friend's name to add him to my ever-expanding Bitch-Slap List.
"Would you like me to call your attorneys?" I asked.
"When I hang up, I'll call them," Stumpf said.
I'm still waiting for the call.
There turns out to be a happy ending. Sort of.
Last Friday, the Atlanta investor's wife e-mailed me to say Pack refunded the money. Pack then called me to say he was faxing a copy of the check. What arrived instead was a notarized statement by the Atlanta investor swearing the following:
"Craig Masilow hereby agrees to not print any story in any newspaper, magazine, tabloid, weblog, RSS feed [my note: what the fuck?] e-mail, instant message, web page, or any other type of media, electronic, print or otherwise, concerning Edward Stumpf IV, his business dealings past, present or future, if Edward Stumpf IV pays to [the investor] the amount of...$7,500. In exchange for this amount of money, [investor] and Craig Masilow [my note: spell my freaking name right, dude] agree to keep completely silent about Edward Stumpf IV to any and all individuals, persons and entities of any kind whatsoever about any past, present or future business dealings of any kind of Edward Stumpf IV."
I called Pack to advise him that I had no idea what he just faxed me, but that the story was still running. He then asked how he could find it. When I told him the web site, he asked what page the story would be on. I told him that, since it's online, there really aren't any page numbers. I also suggested that, since he claimed to own a newspaper, he should have the mental acuity to spot the story without my help. But he needed more info, like what the headline would be.
When I told him I didn't write headlines (editors write headlines), that cinched it for Dennis Pack.
"Oh, you don't even write headlines?!" he sneered. He had me dead to rights.
No, I don't write headlines. But if I did write one for this, just to make it easy to find, it would probably be: "Hey, Dennis -- Here's The Story, Dude."
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