Christopher Filos, top executive and owner of the HPM's debt-plagued plastics and die-casting machinery business, is under criminal investigation, according to authorities in HPM's hometown of Mount Gilead, Ohio.
The business has piled up about $20 million in debts from unpaid taxes, loans and supplies. In an April 23 news release, Morrow County Prosecutor Charles Howland said Filos is a person of interest in a criminal investigation by Mount Gilead police. Local police are being assisted by the Ohio Bureau of Investigation and Ohio Department of Taxation.
Howland expects to complete the investigation by Oct. 1.
According to the news release, a sale is likely to happen this summer in Mount Gilead of the equipment and inventory, which the prosecutor's office said has been appraised at between $6 million and $8.2 million.
Tom Elkin, assistant county prosecutor, declined to give details about the probe. Mount Gilead Police Chief Brian Zerman was not available for comment.
Myron Terlecky, a lawyer who represents Filos, did not return a telephone call seeking comment. Terlecky also represents HPM America LLC and related companies Taylor Towing and Heavy Hauling LLC and Taylor's Property Management LLC.
The prosecutor's office released a list of 23 creditors in numerous court cases involving Filos and the HPM-related companies. They include: $13.8 million in loans to Huntington National Bank; $744,578 to Morrow County for unpaid personal property tax; $361,519 to Morrow County commissions for an economic development loan; $387,583 to the U.S. Small Business Administration for a secured second mortgage on real estate owned by Taylor's Property Management; $243,418 owed to the Ohio Department of Taxation; and $215,542 to the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.
Also, an HPM customer, International Plastics & Equipment Co., a cap and closure molder in new Castle, Pa., has a claim for $366,913 against the machinery maker from a court judgment, according to the prosecutor.
Morrow County filed a foreclosure action against Taylor's Property Management in late 2008.
The HPM machinery plant in Mount Gilead closed in December. Filos has started a wind-turbine company in Columbus, Ohio, called Polaris America LLC. Columbus is in Franklin County.
Meanwhile, court action is heating up. Both the Morrison County treasurer and Huntington National Bank have asserted claims for the equipment and inventory. If both sides cannot resolve the legal dispute, Franklin County Common Pleas Judge John Bessey will be asked to rule on the priority of claims.
Toledo lawyer Christopher Parker is the court-appointed receiver in the Huntington National Bank case in Franklin County Common Pleas Court. The court granted Parker broad authority to take control of the HPM Division of Taylor's Industrial Services LLC but he has been hampered because of a name change to HPM America, part of a lease-deal between what Parker alleges are alter ego entities run by Filos.
Parker won a victory in early February, when Bessey ruled that HPM America would be added as a defendant in the Huntington bank case, and therefore would be subject to the receiver's authority.
However, that issue still has not been resolved. Parker said HPM America has appealed the court ruling.
Parker said a small crew is working at the Mount Gilead plant, making components for wind turbines. But he said nobody is allowed to remove any equipment from the building.
Mount Gilead police have been watching the site. They're letting people know if there's anything that doesn't look right, Parker said in a telephone interview.
As the receiver, Parker would be in charge of any sale of equipment and inventory. He would hold proceeds until the court decides how creditors are to get paid.
It is my intent to sell the equipment as quickly as I am able and under court supervision, he said.
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