By Jami Jones
Land Line staff
Tyrone Walker Allen has had a pretty good life. It’s said he has a lavish home and drives a Caddie – even after a divorce pinched into his bankroll. His business has afforded him the reward of the “good life.”
He probably has a stack of those how-to business books and a few road to success tapes. His business has been so good to him over the past decade or so that he could probably even make up one of those books.
Kind of like he has been making up new business names when he’s burned too many bridges with the old ones.
Allen has had a dozen different Denver-area businesses over the years, according to a variety of watchdog groups. A lot of these businesses operated as freight brokers. Others operated as household movers – some as both.
The common thread for all of Allen’s businesses is that operating authority through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been nonexistent for the most part.
His most recent business, American Motor Freightways Inc., was the only one to have any sort of authority, but it had its contract and common authorities yanked the first of this year.
And the broker authority? It never really happened for this business. It was dismissed before it was ever granted.
Bonds and insurance? Finding verification through FMCSA on active policies held by Allen is pretty tough – in fact, impossible to do – because the policies don’t exist.
Land Line filed a Freedom of Information request with the FMCSA seeking any and all paperwork showing any authority or insurance Allen had applied for and received on companies he is known to have run.
Several comprehensive searches through various FMCSA databases for any authority did not turn up results for any of the companies operated by Allen, or even by his name – beyond the one company, American Motor Freightways.
Officially, the FOI officer at FMCSA told Land Line no information existed on Allen or any of the other companies mentioned.
But finding out about his business practices wasn’t too hard – complaints are rampant.
The Better Business Bureau in the Denver area maintains a complaint file on Allen and his businesses. The BBB has 12 business names linked to Allen and reports 70 complaints were filed with the agency against him and his businesses in the past three years. Incredibly, there’s been very little resolution of those complaints. In fact, Allen did not even respond to 75 percent of the complaints, according to the BBB.
MovingScam.com, a moving company watchdog group, has listed Allen as the owner of 12 businesses with seven known addresses and 10 different telephone numbers. The Web site also reported the companies’ lack of required licenses or insurance to “legally operate in the interstate household goods moving industry” in May 2003.
Allen did not return repeated calls from Land Line.
An old pro
Complaints against Allen – some profiled by a Denver-area television station – are not uncommon.
KUSA-TV Channel 9 aired a two-part segment on Allen and one of his household moving businesses, IMF Logistics and Transportation, in July 2003.
The segments featured Jason and Lisa Fresh, a couple who moved from Alabama to the Denver area with the help of IMF.
The couple arrived at their new home in Denver, but on each of the six scheduled appointments to deliver their belongings, the IMF movers didn’t show, according to the report.
Even when the news crew was with the couple at a time when the mover was scheduled to deliver the load, IMF was a no-show.
Channel 9 visited Allen that same day.
“Even though we told Allen we were at the (couple’s) apartment when he called, Allen said it was the Freshes’ idea to cancel the delivery, not his,” Channel 9’s Chip Yost reported.
Yost talked with several other clients of Allen’s household moving business, and their stories were very similar to the Freshes – except some have waited for years for their belongings to be delivered.
Another customer, Brian Breye, found out thanks to the Channel 9 investigation that Allen actually kept some of his belongings – and put them in his own home.
Yost asked Allen, during a second interview, if anything in his house was from people he had moved. Allen reportedly told Yost “absolutely not.”
Breye told Yost otherwise after the reporter showed him some pictures of the art in Allen’s home.
“Breye, who runs The Museum in Black – a museum specializing in African art – said most of the pieces we showed him were from his collection,” Yost reported.
One victim’s story
Thumbing through the stack of lawsuits against Allen, it’s not hard to find someone who wants to talk about it.
Linda Boggie was relocating overseas at the end of 2003 and needed a mover.
There were only two movers specializing in international moves in the phone book.
She called both, and “quite honestly” liked the friendly and seemingly knowledgeable and honest nature in which IMF Logistics – another one of Allen’s businesses – handled her questions on the front end. So she hired Allen.
The problem is that her stuff didn’t show up in the Netherlands. For 10 days, Boggie had no idea where it was.
Boggie, desperately needing her belongings, said she found them at the Shipco ports in California.
Shipco assisted Boggie in finishing her move.
But that wasn’t enough for Boggie. She said she took a vacation from her new job and came back to the states to sue Allen.
She got a judgment for $2,000 in April 2004. Boggie was allowed to garnish a bank account of Allen’s for $852 nearly five months later. And she says that’s all the money she’s received.
“The guy is a total creep,” she said.
“He’s a real piece of work.
“This guy is a very smooth talker,” Boggie said.
Even though she won her case and got the judgment – and has managed to collect some of it – Boggie admits it was a little hard to travel all the way back to Denver to sue Allen and see him drive off in a sleek Escalade while she drove away in her “old Toyota 4Runner.”
No better for truckers
Digging through court records in the Denver area doesn’t turn up much more of a glowing picture of Allen and his businesses.
Denver County Court records searches revealed that Allen is no stranger to being sued – both for brokering loads and for household moving business disputes.
In fact, a limited search quickly turned up 41 judgments against Allen, with some active cases still pending against him. Many of the cases involve trucking companies who have hauled loads brokered through Allen without getting paid.
Robert O. Stapel, a Denver-based collection attorney, is very familiar with Allen.
“I’ve been collecting against him for probably close to 10 years,” Stapel said. “I’ve wasted a lot of time on him.”
He says you can win the judgment, but you just can’t get the money. Stapel has a lot of clients pursue civil action against Allen in court. Stapel said it mostly has to do with “the principle of the matter.”
“I work on contingency basis. So I’m probably the biggest loser in the deal,” Stapel said.
Apparently, even being sued doesn’t get Allen’s attention. He doesn’t even waste much time anymore going to court when he is sued, according to Stapel.
How did he get a load of launchers?
According to a Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command spokesman, Allen had inexplicably been approved to broker military loads as late as last year – when he didn’t have broker authority through FMCSA.
Last fall, he brokered a load of launchers. Documentation obtained by Land Line shows Allen agreed to pay the trucker $4,537 for the load, including some detention pay – even though the Army was only paying him $2,200.
The trucker hasn’t been paid for hauling the load, and although collection efforts on the load have begun through OOIDA, neither Allen nor the military are indicating they’ll pay up.
Even though Allen doesn’t seem to be big on gaining – only one of his 12 companies has ever had any authority of any kind – he does take care of his business.
The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office has several filings for incorporation by Allen on record. By incorporating his businesses, he has protected his personal assets from the lawsuits stemming from his business practices.
“Every time you turn around, he has one company that he has put so far under that he incorporates under a new name and starts all over again,” Stapel said.
“In all of the claims I’ve had against him, he’s incurred the debt through the business.”
And even though the businesses are worth thousands of “shares,” according to the incorporation papers on several of his companies, he is the sole holder – sole holder of very little, at least in terms of his business.
“All you need is a desk, telephone and the Internet to run your business,” Stapel said. “You don’t have anything you can collect against.”
Stapel said the maneuvers to incorporate are among the reasons Allen’s personal wealth appears to grow.
“My process server told me ‘Every time I go out and serve him, he’s in a better house’,” Stapel said. “He keeps getting richer.”
Fight the fight
Denver area prosecutors told both Land Line and Channel 9 that there’s not a whole lot they can do. Investigators told Channel 9 there’s a fine line between being a bad businessman and a criminal. They say you have to establish enough evidence to show a pattern – an unbelievable excuse in the face of Allen’s documented carnage.
For now, Stapel seems to be one of the few allies truckers have in the non-payment war Allen has waged on the trucking industry. In fact, the attorney had six cases pending against Allen as of press time.
“He keeps business doors locked at all times, so we serve him by ‘refusal’ when the process server sees him,” Stapel said.
Service by refusal is when the process server sees and recognizes the individual to be served – in Allen’s case its usually through the front window of his locked business – and leaves the notice there. Then the summons is considered served.
“That’s how he has to be served all the time,” Stapel said. “I’ve had process servers paid to sit back and watch for three or four hours, waiting for him to come out the back door.
“He’s very good at avoiding process servers.”
But that doesn’t deter Stapel. He’s committed to continuing to do battle with Allen, hoping that one day, it will really make a difference.
“I understand that there are people without a conscience – but I don’t understand how they can continue to do what they do,” he said.
What about the feds?
Federal investigators would not confirm or deny that any federal agency was investigating Allen.
The FMCSA is the agency that has this job, but while there might be a sheriff, there are not enough deputies. According to a March 8 article in The Washington Post, until recently, the FMCSA had two investigators who looked into complaints about movers or brokers, and there were 3,631 complaints last year alone.
The sheriff in this case, FMCSA Administrator Annette Sandberg, told The Post that this spring, the agency will tackle a new effort to ferret out “problem brokers,” armed with seven new investigators and backup from regular staff.
“I understand that the agency is also considering whether more regulation is necessary,” said OOIDA President Jim Johnston. “If there is any doubt, picture in your mind an illegitimate guy like Ty Allen ripping off clients and ripping off hard-working truckers. If you still have doubts, imagine him with loads of launchers for the military.”