Loose Lips

Gray Transition Director Reuben Charles Owes Illinois $236,000 in Taxes

Reuben Charles Owes Illinois $236,000 in Back Taxes, Records ShowUpdated at 5:28 p.m.

Reuben Charles, the director of Almost Mayor Vince Gray's transition team, owes $236,620.74 in unpaid sales and use taxes in Illinois.

The tax lien issued by the Illinois Department of Revenue obtained today by LL is pretty sparse on details, though it says the lien was filed on April 1, 2008. A clerk at the Sangamon County Recorder's office told LL that there's no record of Charles having paid that debt.

LL has already documented that Charles has several other unpaid debts in St. Louis, where he ran a venture capital fund. Charles has characterized those debts as part of the regular knocks that come with being a businessman who invested heavily in real estate. (Charles had also told LL he used to do business in Chicago.) Court records in Missouri also show that he went to court three times over tax issues, though all of those cases have been settled.

The voicemail box on Charles' cell phone was full. So LL has a call into Gray's camp seeking a comment from Charles on the Illinois debt; LL will update as needed.

Charles was the subject of a little bit of awkwardness at Gray's press conference today at the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center, courtesy of NBC 4's Tom Sherwood and D.C. Watch's Dorothy Brizill.

Sherwood wanted to know why Gray, who was introducing his "Transition Leadership Team" hadn't brought up Reuben Charles, who will be running the transition team, to stand with the rest of the group. And Brizill grilled Gray pretty hard about whether Charles would have a dual role of raising funds while managing the transition.

In the past, Gray has been effusive in his praise for Charles, who is rumored to be Gray's next chief of staff. During his victory speech last night, Gray even gave Charles an extended shout-out for his prodigious fundraising abilities.

At today's press conference, Sherwood asked why Charles was standing in the back of the room, instead of in front of the press with Gray and the rest of the transition team, given that he'll be running the day-to-day operations of the transition.

"I've yet to see [Charles] in person or hear him speak... Can he come up front so we can all have picture of you sir, with his team?" Sherwood asked. "No shadows in this administration," he added jokingly.

At that point Charles came up and stood next to Gray, until Gray kind of shooed him back to stand with the rest of the transition team.

When Sherwood tried later to get Charles to answer a question, Gray said: "No, no, you'll just hear from me today."

Update: Gray transition spokeswoman Doxie McCoy tells LL that the debt is tied to a company, on whose board Charles sat, that operated movie theaters in Chicago. She said the lien is "related to a board membership, which by Illinois law ties all board members to ... tax liens."

"Reuben Charles is working on getting it resolved," McCoy said.

According to 2004 article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Charles was the vice-chairman of a company called Meridian Entertainment. Charles became a board member after the venture capital fund named Civic Ventures he was running with a man named Byron Winton, invested in the company.  LL found the article in an archive search and can't find it online. Here's the relevant text:

Civic Ventures initially said it would invest in businesses in the St. Louis area, but by the end of 1998 had abandoned that principle.

One venture involved Alisa and Donzell Starks, a couple who operated three movie theaters in Chicago and were interested in expanding their business.

Near the end of 1998, Civic Ventures invested $1 million in Meridian Entertainment Co., which was seeking to acquire and operate seven movie theaters in Chicago, the SBA report said. The investment gave Civic Ventures a 34 percent share of Meridian, the SBA said.

Meridian's president was Donzell Starks. Winton became the chairman of the board of directors and Charles became its vice chairman.

Alisa Starks, who said she attended Northwestern University with Winton, said that he and Charles were not in "operating" positions. Neither of them was paid by Meridian, she said.

A few months later, on April 1, 1999, Civic Ventures invested again in movie theaters, lending $500,000 to AJS Entertainment Inc., according to the SBA report. AJS, a company set up by Alisa Starks and her husband, then paid $500,000 to buy a 33 percent stake in Meridian, the SBA said.

The [Small Business Administration] report described Meridian as the "owners of seven movie theaters in Chicago." But Alisa Starks said in an interview that Meridian never owned the theaters. Instead, it leased them from other companies, which wound up hurting the company financially, she said.

The movie industry hit a slump in 2000, causing attendance to fall, Starks said. But Meridian was left with the fixed expense of leases and collapsed in debt by the end of 2000, she said.

There is no record of Civic Ventures filing suit this time either. The fund wrote off the entire $1.5 million investment as worthless before it was placed in liquidation.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • Typical DC BS

    Mr. Gray better start talking soon about why he keeps Mr. Charles around, or he's going to lose a lot of goodwill right of the bat.

  • Me-Bent Adrian

    I hope Gray addresses this issue head-on. Why keep a liability regardless of how much funds the man might be able to raise. Charles seems to have a lot of skeleton in his closets and the more they hide it, the harder it will be for anyone to ever trust him and sadly, Gray. Don't repeat Fenty's mistakes...

  • Simon

    ugh. It begins...

  • Truth Hurts

    Gray's camp threw LL off the scent with its vague, midleading update. Stay tuned. It'll get worse every day until/unless Gray wakes up.

    So far, media reports show Charles with well over one-half mill in judgments or liens he's gonna "take care of". How much dough does this guy have stashed? And why didn't he pay these judgments years ago?

    Anyone?

  • downtown rez

    Does anyone find it credible that team Gray didn't follow SOP and vett this guy up front?
    Does anyone find it remotely credible that they haven't vetted him in the four weeks since the press started raising serious questions about him?
    Character. Integrity. Leadership.
    We can do better.
    Such pretty words...

  • bluto

    Why does One City keep this guy around? Is the DC local politics scene some sort of dumping ground for wanna-be power brokers who have failed elsewhere? Sure seems like it with some of the crap we have floating around the toilet.

  • Nick
  • concernedresident

    Reuben Charles owes $236,000 in taxes.
    Mark Barnes owes at least $200,000 in DISTRICT taxes.
    How is Vince Gray going to practice fiscal responsibility when he is surrounding himself with this tax-evaders? One of the best ways to close the budget gap is to go out after the people who owe HUGE sums of money to the district.

    you need to do better than that Vince. Actions speak louder than words.

  • downtown rez

    @concernedresident
    Actually, from what has been reported so far Charles seems to have over $600,000 in judgments against him, and Barnes owes $860,000 in taxes.
    Not that that takes away from your basic point.

  • SEis4ME

    LOL@The unrelenting rabidness of Fenty/anti-Gray supporters.

    You guys and Alan will either like what you hear or you won't.

    Here's a novel idea Alan, since you don't seem to have much an issue finding people who know Charles, can you at least prod/manipulate (or whatever) them into saying how horrible Charles is. As I've said before, I can't imagine it would be that hard. At a minimum, it will bolster your implied charges against him and give us something more than what you have so far - Charles and another failed business venture.

    I simply shrug - again.

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  • imnotleavingdc

    I have the utmost confidence and respect for our new Mayor, and I certainly hope (and believe) he will address this troubling matter. We don't need to start a new administration with these types of credibility questions lingering and distracting the Mayor and others from the important work that lies ahead. If it is true that Mr. Charles brings this type of baggage into the mix, I hope Mayor Gray will replace him -- and quickly.

  • Reginald

    Anyone, smell that foul odor coming from
    the District building?

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  • noodlez

    DREZ STOP IT! JUST STOP IT! YOUR COMMENT #5 IS WAY OFF BASE! JUST BECAUSE YOU (A HATER) DON’T UNDERSTAND, STOP TRYING TO CONFUSE EVERYONE ELSE. PUT DOWN THE SOUR MASH AND FIND A MEETING.

    YOUR SINISTER COMMENTS DOES NOTHING BUT MAKE YOU AKIN TO RIGHT WING FANATICISM. IT SEEMS THAT YOUR CONSTANT FEAR TACTIC FITS RIGHT IN WITH THEIR NARRATIVE. IT’S ACTUALLY BECOME QUITE BOTHERSOME THAT YOU ARE TAKING THIS STANCE KNOWING THAT THE GUY YOU SUPPORTED IS DONE POLITICALLY. THAT COLOR GREEN YOU EXPRESSIN GOT ME A BIT CONFUSED. I DON’T KNOW IF YOU’RE GREEN WITH ENVY OR POISONED FROM DRINKING THE GREEN TEAM KOOL AID.

    YOU FIT RIGHT IN WITH THE REASON THEY ARE GOING AFTER THOMAS. TYPICAL PUNK TYPE SHIT. MAN UP MOFO AND ACCEPT DEFEAT ON ITS TERMS AS OPPOSED TO CRYING FOUL OVER SHIT THAT DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A BEARING ON HIS ADMINISTRATION.

    LIKE A MOTH TO A FLAME YOU ARE CONSTANTLY REPEATING THE SAME OL SHIT EVERY TIME SUDERMAN LOGS HIS DAILY OR WEEKLY. SPREADING FEAR INNUENDO EVEN THOUGH GRAY HASNT EVEN PUT HIS ASS IN THE SEAT 1 TIME. YET YOU ARE BASHING, GIVING FORETHOUGHT AND SECOND GUESSING EVERY FUCKING THING THAT GRAY DOES. THE GUY OWES MONEY. WHO DOESN’T? SOME MORE THAN OTHERS. AND??

    WHO GIVES A FUCK THAT THIS DUDE OWE MONEY TO OTHER FOLK? A BLACK MAN OWES TAXES. OK. HIS BUSINESSES COLLAPSED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE FINANCIAL FREEFALL. OK. LOOK IM SURE GRAY HAVE THE RESOURCES OR CONNECTS AT HIS DISPOSAL TO GET THE BROTHER’S DEBTS PAID IF WANTED TO DO THAT. IF CHARLES ALL OF A SUDDEN PAID THE DEBT DOWN THEN YOUR BAMMA ASS WOULD BE QUESTIONING WHERE HE GOT THE MONEY FROM AND IMMEDIATELY START SPECULATING EVEN FURTHER.

    WILL SOMEONE PLEASE EXPLAIN TO ME WHAT THIS GUY OWING MONEY FROM A FAILED BUSINESS VENTURE HAVE TO DO WITH HIS ABILITY TO DO A JOB THAT MR GRAY ASKED HIM TO DO?

    FUCK! I EVEN GAVE FAGGIE FENTY 3YRS BEFORE I STARTED CALLING HIM OUT EVEN THO I COULDNT STAND HIS BITCH ASS FROM THE START!

    ONE CITY

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  • downtown rez

    @ noodlez
    Perhaps you should take a moment or two to think about how you have presented yourself on this site over the last year or so before you start calling anyone else out for expressing their thoughts.

  • downtown rez
  • SEis4ME

    @DRez, loud caps and all, NOODLEZ in this case happens to be right on point. You've presented yourself in ways I find more than disingenous. It doesn't tag you as incapable of making a good point.

    NOODLEZ is NOODLEZ in the same way DREZ is DREZ.

  • love

    As i suffer through these "haters" drivel and moaning, I take comfort in the wisdom, compassion, and leadership embodied in Mayor Gray. As demonstrated by his amazing victory, there is something to be said for keeping the faith. Mayor Gray has every reason to keep his faith in Rueben Charles.

    as always, love

  • downtown rez

    noodlez, SEis4ME
    I'll stand by my comment in #5.
    It's a simple fact that some sort of vetting is SOP at the campaign manager level. People run credit and back ground checks on new hires all the time. At that level it is expected.
    I also think it's absolutely incredible that 4 weeks after the news stories started to break that they haven't thoroughly hashed this out.
    Cry about it all you want.
    I'm only stating the obvious.

  • Just Saying

    Mr. Gray's spokesperson said weeks ago that Charles had been vetted and that the new administration had satisfied itself there were no concerns. Now they're looking into Charles' background in light of recent media disclosures.

    Just saying, we can do better.

  • Truth Hurts

    Anyone else think the sreen name chosen by commenter #17 is ironic?

  • Anonymous, Too

    Normally, I don't agree with DREZ, but this guy is bad news. There has got to be a way that Gray can reward him for his campaign service, and then send him on his merry, entrepreneurial way, out of the picture.

  • Indeed

    What I'm concerned about is that this dude looks like he's stepping out of a music video from the early 90s, like he was in BBD or Boys 2 Men. Purple and white shirt? And who's he flirting with? Fenty?

  • noodlez

    @ DREZ-"I also think it’s absolutely incredible that 4 weeks after the news stories started to break that they haven’t thoroughly hashed this out." HASH WHAT OUT?

    THIS IS GRAY. NOT FENTY. THE NEWS STORIES OBVIOUSLY DONT DICTATE HOW GRAY RUNS HIS CAMPAIGN. TO SAY THEY DIDNT FOLLOW S.O.P. IS SOME BULLSHIT!

    IM NOT WORRIED ABOUT GRAY'S FRAT BRO AND OR CHARLES BECAUSE BOTH OF THEM ARE ON DISPLAY, BEEN THRU THE SYSTEM AND KNOW IF THEY SCREW UP THEY ARE TOAST. ITS THE UP-N-COMERS FLYING UNDER THE RADAR (SKINNER, KARIM, FENTY) THAT WE NEED TO BE WORRIED ABOUT!

    WAKE UP AND STOP SLEEP WALKIN.

  • Hear it loud

    This is nothing more than Fenty supporters trying to pull Vince down. Charles has helped so many minority businesses and has to be succesfull for all of you to be talking about him. All these big companies just don't invest until they trust and more importantly see some intelligence in a person. I bet all of you making comments against this guy Charles and Vince, you would not be able to raise a single dollar in you own name. So stop being losers and accept your defeat and let Vince and his brilliant team including Charles do their job. And for LL please write stories with some substance. There will be lot of dirt coming out now from the different agencies in DC as Fenty's administration is running out and new administration is taking over. Please look into those stories rather than focusing on personal finances of a rising black man.

  • downtown rez

    @noodlez
    This is from LL's first published report on Charles, published 4 weeks ago. Notice how the public accounting of (the lack of) vetting is at least two degrees removed from Gray, though Charles is running the campaign, heading up fundraising, and leading the transition team:
    "...As for the vaguely shady paper trail Charles left behind in St. Louis, Rubinson says he never vetted Charles beyond a cursory Google search. He says Charles has recently told him about some of his past financial problems; Rubinson is satisfied the problems won’t keep Charles from serving as Gray’s new de facto campaign manager during the general election.

    “I don’t have any concerns about them at all,” Rubinson said."

    If you are comfortable with that, it seems you and disagree on what Standard Operating Procedures are or should be.

  • Truth Hurts

    So, is he all paid up yet? The 600k plus in multiple judgments and tax liens that he hoped nobody would find out about?

    Didn't think so.

  • bow tie forever

    for a guy in town only 3 years, he sure hustled up them bundles.

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