COPPERAS COVE — In December, Tashmia Williams, like many parents, wrapped Christmas presents for her children. The boxes were empty, however.
“We had two mortgages to pay plus we had to fix the roof of our Killeen property,” the mother of two said. “But we weren’t getting the money owed us from rent and deposits from the property, because our management company just stopped sending it.”
When Williams called Gilbert Quinones, the now former-operator of Re/Max Platinum Real Estate in Copperas Cove, no one answered the phone. She tried repeatedly to contact Quinones to no avail.
“We finally got in touch with them by using one of our friends’ cellphones,” Williams said. “They were screening our calls and wouldn’t answer if they saw our numbers.”
When Quinones went before the State Board of Administrative Hearings on April 29 after several complaints were filed pertaining to his mismanagement of properties in Killeen, Copperas Cove and Kempner, many affected by the former proprietor of Re/Max Platinum Real Estate may have breathed a sigh of relief.
After all, it seemed the businessman responsible for their lost funds was getting his just due. But property owners said that simply was not the case.
“We are still owed money,” Williams said. “How are we supposed to pay back the deposit of our renter when we never received it? Where do we come up with those funds?”
At least 41 others have similar stories. Former renter Eric Shufelberger sued Quinones.
“What’s worse is that he forged documents in my name and attempted to move me out of my rental two weeks early,” Shufelberger said. “That’s what I sued for, my lost property.”
The case went to mediation and the two parties agreed Quinones would repay Shufelberger $9,600. To-date, Shufelberger only has received $2,400 and nothing in the last three months.
The Copperas Cove Police Department is investigating the allegations of Quinones’ misapplication of fiduciary property. Fiduciary is a term for two or more parties entering into a contract.
Along with the property owners and renters directly connected with Quinones, there have been some unintended victims as well. Most notably the new occupant of the building vacated by Platinum Real Estate, which shares the Re/Max name.
“It’s not fair to Cove Re/Max because (Platinum Real Estate) are not affiliated with us and were told they were no longer allowed to use the franchise,” said Rick Ott, manager of the location. “But the problem is that customers will see the building and think we are the same company. We are not.”
Ott said he has had to quell a fire storm of outraged customers who feel they’ve been misled in some way or another by the Re/Max business. But he said nothing could be further from the truth.
“Perception can become reality,” he said. “So I’ve had to work twice as hard to earn back the public trust for something I had nothing to do with, but I am up to the task.”
Williams praised Ott for going above and beyond her expectations. “He helped us from the moment we contacted him. ... He was always calling and texting to give us helpful information. He didn’t have to do anything, but he was just outstanding.”
The Copperas Cove Police Department did not respond to the Herald’s requests for comment, but a news release issued Thursday stated that at least 42 Platinum Real Estate victims have been identified. Police urge others who feel they were victimized to call Detective Rick Counter at 254-547-8222 ext. 6894.
Despite the money lost, Williams said last Christmas did turn out OK. Friends and family helped her get some presents to fill the kids’ boxes.