Owners missing; bills unpaid; Moscow police investigating. Via the Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Both tenants and property owners who did business with Whitepine Property Management LLC this spring are wondering today where their money has gone.
The Moscow Police Department said Friday it has begun a preliminary investigation into the sudden closing of the six-month-old Moscow firm and the disappearance of the company’s owners, said Police Chief James Fry.
Whether any money has also disappeared is unclear, but utility bills and mortgage payments have not been paid for many weeks, says one property owner. More than 10 property owners are clients of Whitepine.
Tenants say the city is threatening to cut off their water.
Whitepine was the successor to the long-running University City property management firms headed first by Moscow businessman Matthew Becker, who is also a rental property owner, and after 2009 by his brother-in-law, Michael Osterholz.
Osterholz announced in February in the Daily News that he was retiring and selling the University City business to Braxton Kirwan. The firm had been renamed Whitepine, it was reported. Osterholz retained a 60 percent interest in the new company, Becker’s Moscow attorney Greg Rauch said. Kirwan said he had not been part of the University City business.
All University City accounts were to be transferred to Whitepine, the Daily News reported.
Becker said Thursday he can’t reach either Osterholz or Kirwan. Kirwan corresponded with the Daily News by email Friday but would not say where he was.
Kirwan registered the company with the Idaho Secretary of State on Jan. 25.
Osterholz left the Palouse shortly after with the assurance he would keep the company’s books from his new home in Platteville, Wis., Kirwan said.
The company’s doors were closed in late June, said Becker, whose properties composed one of Whitepine’s larger accounts.
The amount of money missing, if any, is unknown as property owners and their attorneys have been unable to obtain access to Whitepine’s bank accounts.
“It could be $300,000 or it could be zero,” said Rauch.
Kirwan wrote that Osterholz told him in April about “a very large bookkeeping error” with University City accounts, and that Osterholz would no longer have any part of Whitepine.
Kirwan said, “That letter was the last time I heard from Michael.”
Kirwan said he then opened the Whitepine’s accounts to find, “only a couple hundred dollars and nothing in the security deposit account.”
Becker said he realized more was amiss than he suspected when he received an email from a tenant on Wednesday who said she had received a water shut off notice from the city of Moscow for nonpayment.
The water bills for his properties had not been paid for months, Becker said.
“It cost around $10,000 to keep the water on,” he said.
Becker still owns the office building used by Whitepine and said he asked Kirwan to vacate the premises in late June due to nonpayment of rent.
Kirwan did vacate, Becker said, around June 30.
In the meantime, Rauch said, property owners are transferring their accounts to other management companies on the Palouse.
Tenants with concerns should contact him, Rauch said.