Our Christmas Wish
Brenda and I love being able to do "Christmas Wish." For us it's a bit of a chance to kind of give back. The story you're about to read is true, it will probably freak out our legal team, but what happened and the people involved are real.
In 1990 Brenda's brother was killed in a horrific car accident just outside Cheyenne, Wyoming, because of that event we decided to move to Wyoming and be near Brenda's family rather than move across country for me to program a station in Norfolk, VA. The decision to stay in Cheyenne would end up really shaping who we are.
We got jobs at the stations where I pretty well started my radio career, I worked the mornings and programmed the stations. Brenda did national sales, production and promotions for them and was there in the afternoon, that way we didn't have daycare.
Even though the stations were very successful, the owner kept telling us he just didn't have enough for payroll. It was the early days of business computers and the ones in his office and billing kept crashing. Things just weren't adding up, but we kept going, believing the owners words that it would be OK.
The summer of 1991 got real bad, we were getting partial paychecks and even had to race those to the bank. We were doing everything to keep the staff going, even arranging for coupons for people to eat.
About July, the stations were put into Chapter 11 bankruptcy and we all lost thousands in pay, we were considered unsecured creditors. So basically we got nothing.
Then in September, we were approached by federal authorities. Come to find out the guy who owned the station, was a scam artist. He would basically make an agreement to buy stations, take them over, drive them into bankruptcy and then buy them for a fraction of what he originally offered.
He had scammed owners in Wisconsin and Texas. He would hide money in foreign banks where it couldn't be found. So, Brenda handed over her national account records and we gave them other evidence that showed money was coming in.
As the fall went on, we knew something was going on, because the owner was getting very combative and had this excuse and that for why we weren't getting paychecks. Brenda and I kept things going with a shoestring staff of part timers who stayed. We were hoping the Fed's would finally arrest this guy and we could get on with our lives.
It was the evening of December 16th, 1991. We got a call that the courts had taken over the stations and that checks were being handed out. I ran over to the stations to get our checks and was met with a couple of employees who were in cahoots with the owner. They told me we weren't getting anything and then made claims that we were the crooks, even though they knew it was a lie.
That night we got accused of stealing all the money from the station, they accused us of taking the trips we gave away. That one was a big lie, since we were on the air when some of the trips were taken. It was the biggest lie you could ever imagine, but it wasn't by the Fed's, police or any other authorities, it was the crooked owner who made the claims.
He called the news, we had TV crews at our home, shoving cameras in our face. The paper did a great hack job backing him all the way and giving our response online that made it look even worse. The crook even found an attorney who filed a suit against us, knowing it was all false, but he was willing to do whatever so long as he got paid.
For the next 9 days we would be front page news with the reporters believing the owner and making us the villains. It was the biggest scandal in years and we were at the center of it. We were being blamed for Cheyenne's favorite radio stations going off the air, and according to the news, we had made off with thousands, if not hundreds of thousands.
The crooked owner had painted quite a picture making it look like it was all our fault. The damage was done, we were pretty well broke, we were facing losing our home. There we were with three children, ages one and a half, three and almost seven. We felt helpless, we didn't even want to go out in public, but it would all end Christmas Eve in two ways.
Christmas Eve, 1991, we got a call from a friend. The crooked owner had a U-haul backed up to his house and was slinging stuff in it as fast as he could. He was trying to sneak out of town with everything. News was alerted and finally the truth came out. For 9 days we couldn't even go out without someone calling us some sort of name, but finally both him and his minions would be outed.
We were still broke and wondering how we were going to make it. The crooked owner had taken money from our checks for taxes, insurance, social security and such, but he never paid any of it, including unemployment insurance. One employee went to get cancer treatments only to find out she didn't have any insurance, because of him, she ended up not getting treatment until it was too late. This guy was really scum.
I had just got back to the house after watching the news and Feds deal with the crooked owner, feeling relief knowing we would finally be vindicated, but still wondering how we would keep food in the house, let alone make the house payment.
We were sitting in the family room with the kids, when we heard the doorbell ring. I was at the door in seconds, but there was nobody there. There was however a couple of big black bags, in one bag there were toys wrapped and unwrapped for our kids. The other bag had everything we would need for a big Christmas dinner.
Over the next week we had surprises not only in the mail, but by Federal Express and hand delivery. We managed to piece together our house payment, Unemployment was granted even though he hadn't paid it. It was a magical Christmas.
So to everyone who is going through hard time, keep going and have faith, because "Santa" is real.