After Arrest Spongtech Fraudster Metter loaded Radio Stations with Debt: Greenwich’s WGCH facing Eviction

UPDATE 4:45pm: The head of the Greenwich DTC, Frank Farricker, tells me he’s been try to reach BTR’s receiver, Michael Craven, and his Delaware attorney at Morris James LLP to make an offer on the Greenwich Radio station but so far they’ve refused to call him back. Craven has also refused to return multiple request for comment.

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The Greenwich Radio Station, WGCH, run by alleged penny stock fraudster Michael Metter has been sued for eviction after racking up over $140k of unpaid management company bills. Court documents filed this week show Metter, who was arrested for criminal fraud in 2010, has racked up near a million of unpaid debt while the courts allow him to run the radio stations after he was released on bail.

Metter was removed as CEO of the Greenwich station last month and the former COO, Jeff Weber, was rehired as a consultant to run the stations while they are trying to be sold. A receiver, Michael Craven, was appointed to monitor the assets of WGCH’s parent The stations were forced into sale after the SEC was able to claim BTR as a relief defendant in the securities fraud suit against Metter and his penny stock company Spongetech because the regulator claims Metter used the station for money laundering in his Spongetech scam.

Since Metter’s arrest he’s loaded up BTR with so much debt that they are also behind on paying Connecticut state taxes, federal taxes, the stations’ vendors, and even some employees–but court documents show Metter continued to pay himself between $16,000 to $18,000 a month over the last two years.

The total bill for BTR vendors and creditors is $991,900 of which the Greenwich Broadcasting Company owes $195,362.

The Greenwich station landlord served a notice to quit the property as a result of nonpayment on July 24th asking WGCH to vacate their station at 71 Lewis St in downtown Greenwich, Conn by the end of the month. WGCH didn’t do it. The landlord stated the monthly rent was $5,647. Harrison Management Company then sold the overdue 10-yr lease, signed in August 2006 to 100 Maison St LLC, on September 7th. Harrison is listed in court records as being owed over $140,000. The new landlord filed suit on September 26th to evict and BTR’s receiver says he is now trying to negotiation with them to stay in the property. A fact the Greenwich Time reporters could have easily picked up on when they reported that Jeff Weber had been brought back after Metter was removed as CEO the first week of October– but they didn’t.

Weber is also the president of the Greenwich Chamber of Commerce. The receiver’s creditor spreadsheet, filed in court, shows the Chamber is owed $950 and even Weber has a claim of $24,000 against the radio company he’s working for again.

I previously reported on some of the BTR assets finally being sold at trade publication Growth Capitalist. This money is intended to go to the SEC for victims of Metter’s penny stock fraud. The Brockton Mass. station sold for $250,000 but after deal fees and cost the deal only netted $100,268 which has been placed in a court escrow account. Now BTR’s receiver is asking he court for $50,000 of the sale proceeds to pay some back rent so the radio stations aren’t forced out by their landlords.

There is also a sale contract signed, but not closed, for the Vegas station (KNUU) in the amount of $950,000. But that station is also facing eviction because Metter didn’t pay the rent. The Greenwich and Pittsburg stations have no sale offers. Metter has previously stated in court documents filed in the SEC’s case against him that he thought BTR assets would be worth around $6mn and the Greenwich station was listed for sale at $1.25mn. It’s unclear how Weber or Metter ever thought the Greenwich station would fetch a million sale price considering WGCH was unable to operate during Hurricane Sandy’s power outages because Metter had not bought the station a working back-up generator.

Unfortunately, the SEC’s plan to use money from the sale of the four BTR stations as restitution for mom and pop Spongetech investors has hit a big snag. BTR receiver, Michael Craven, hired a forensic accountant to validate a third-party secured claim against the assets of BTR by a New Jersey hard money lender Solutions Funding LLC. Last week Craven filed court documents stating Solutions Funding claim of $3.08 million is valid–this means the third-party lender will get paid before the SEC can collect any money for investors. Craven actually settled with Solutions Funding for $2.5 million and is waiting court approval to make them the senior secured creditor.

Court documents show the Vegas station has the most assets so it’s not likely the Greenwich or Pittsburgh station would generate a $950,000 price tag like the Vegas station has (a deal that still isn’t closed). So far the net proceeds to pay off Solutions Funding from the sale of the Brockton, Mass. station is only $50,000. So it’s not looking like SEC’s move to get any dollars out of is going to work out. The regulator did succeed in forcing Metter to sale the stations but now we see the beneficiary is going to be a high-interest hard money lender. What’s unclear is why did the SEC not inspect how Metter was using cash flow at BTR till it was too late. Why was he allowed to receive a six-figure income while rent wasn’t paid? Isn’t it their job to weed out people who habitually abuse the markets and securities laws?

SEC adds Metter’s Greenwich Radio Station as Defendant in Spongetech Fraud Suit

The SEC is playing tough with alleged penny stock scammer Michael Metter and his Business TalkRadio Network. The Securities and Exchange Commission filed court documents Thursday adding the radio business, which includes Greenwich station WGCH, as a relief defendant in the fraud case against Meter and his pump and dump stock Spongetech. The federal regulator says because Metter has entered a letter of intent for WAY below market value for the stations that the business basically can’t be trusted to sell itself and thus should be named as a defendant to ward off buyers not willing to pay market price. You see the reason the stations were suddenly put up for sale this summer is because the SEC says BTRN owes Spongetech shareholders millions.

I reported in September for DealFlow Media, the SEC alleged that Metter and his partner Moskowitz had basically embezzled Spongetech funds into BTRN, in 2009, and helped it pay off a $5 million debt. As a result the SEC was able to get a partial asset freeze on the radio stations checking accounts and Mr. Metter had to turn over financial signing power to this right hand man Jeff Weber. Weber just happens to also be president of the Greenwich Chamber of Commerce. Since then, Weber and Metter’s job has been to keep the stations afloat until a buyer can be found. The proceeds from the stations sale (they own 4 in Greenwich, Vegas, Pittsburg and Boston) would go to the SEC, if they win or settle their case against Meter and Spongetech, who in turn would turn over proceeds to the Spongetech victims.

The SEC stated last week in court documents they’d seen deal terms to sell BTRN stations (sans the Boston one) to an unnamed buyer for only $50k cash and a $950k unsecured, non recourse, 3-year promissory note that is expected to close at the end of January. There is also a letter of intent on the Boston station the SEC says is for way below fair market value. You see earlier last year Metter’s attorney swore in court documents there was an appraisal that showed the BTRN stations were worth more than $6 million. So you can kind of see why the SEC is a little pissey about a Metter orchestrated below market, no security to pay it back, deal going down. That would mean they let him take a $16k a month salary this whole past year to do what? Doesn’t look good for the recovery of dollars for the Spongetech victims-does it? So the regulator told the court this kind of sale isn’t getting approved by them.

Well according to a letter Metter’s attorney filed with the federal court last month, Weber (who isn’t being sued by the SEC) was also doing some funny business. Metter’s attorney, Miranda Fritz wrote, Weber was using his advantage of signatory power to force BTRN to keep his current salary and benefits for the 1st six months of 2012 while the company was trying to cut expenses. When Metter said no – he quit. Metter on his part has agreed to cut his salary from about $240k a year to $165k. His attorney filed a motion at the end of December stating Metter will take bi-weekly payments of $6,875 and supposedly the station owes him another $9,938 in expenses.

But the SEC apparently got pissed when they saw Metter blow off the rules of the court. Since Jeff Weber quit on Metter last month, and he’s the only court appointed signee of the radio biz accounts, Metter has gone back to signing checks and managing money this month — a move that technically isn’t allowed by the court. So the SEC filed a motion to also cut off his bi-weekly salary.

To be fair Metter’s attorney did tell the court, last month, he’d found a CPA with Hegen Streiff Newton & Oshiro, Marc Johnson, to take over as an independent signatory of the radio biz accounts. Remember there is no way in hell the SEC is going to let Metter have power over checking accounts with cash in them. Still the court hasn’t approved any of this, so legally BTRN shouldn’t be using its cash to you know pay staff or bills. (Which would suck for the 40 or so people the company employs.)

Paul Kisslinger, SEC attorney, wrote the court on January 12th, “Given that BTRN has continued to operate in this fashion, apparently at the direction of, or with the approval of Metter, without the entry of an order by the Court, the SEC withdraws its consent to subsections 2(d) and (e) of the Proposed Order which allow Metter to continue to draw a salary or receive any other disbursement from BTRN.”

Metter’s attorney obviously wrote a nasty reply back to the court that the SEC’s move to cut off her criminally charged client was, “inappropriate, irresponsible, and should be rejected by the court.”

Stay tuned because it’s up to Judge Dora L. Irizarry, of the Eastern District of New York Federal Court, to decide what the heck to do about Metter’s salary and the friendly deal he set up to sell the stations.