Who is involved in the new Convention and Visitors Bureau? Where does the Transient Occupancy Tax go?
Where to start – Perhaps by attempting to layout the Shell Game that has characterized disgraced former Modesto City Councilman Joe Muratore.
I am truly amazed by his ability to move without shame from leading/owning/co-owning one real estate and brokerage firm to another, gathering up conflicts of interest, double dipping and taking advantage of local and federal funding designated for the least fortunate amongst us.
For example, without shame, Joe was highlighted in a Federal Audit for his part of $100,000 ineligible expenditures to the tune of $62,500 for collecting commission on the sale of property as owner of Benchmark Commercial Real Estate, while serving as a City Council Member. The report further recommended that he receive a “debarment sanction” forbidding him from doing business with any government business.
The Gaul is amazing, as the problems were not JUST that he was owner of Benchmark Commercial Real Estate, it is not that HE ALSO had a conflict with Trinity Ventures RE II, which is co-owned by Muratore’s business partner Ryan Swehla and contractor Scott Monday. Joe’s buddy/partner, Ryan Swehla in Trinity Ventures RE II “double dipped” into more HUD projects by collecting almost $48,000 too much in management fees for just eight properties.
It gets worse – they also “double dipped” by hitting the same property twice ($6,340 and & 1,712) in fees – concerning HUD inspectors so much that they demanded additional justification for another $8,154 in billed costs.
As a review of the records in the below links will highlight in gory Detail, Joe Muratore was on the City Council when a low-cost loan of $1.27 million dollars was approved to Trinity Ventures (an act the HUD audit deemed a conflict of interest. )
Remember Joe’s buddy/partner, Ryan Swehla – not only was he a principal in Trinity Ventures, but Swehla had another partner Scott Monday who was Son-in-law to former Modesto Bee publisher Mark Vasche (who resigned over the conflict).
The bottom line is that Joe was right smack in the middle of a web. The feds gave $25 million to the City of Modesto, The City took $2.5 million for administration and supervision, Stanislaus County Assistance Program (SCAP) took $8 million… so $14.5 million dollars swirled into the caldron of real estate companies, brokerage firms, property management, etc. Guess what Joe and Ryan and Scott do for a living?
Amazing the feds did not want all their money back. Read away for yourself.
By the way, Joe’s company, Benchmark Realty is the new property manager for the Modesto Bee in the City Center Professional Offices.