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Austin Real Estate Wars: Follow the Money

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Press release

Companies owned by Austin-area car dealer Bryan Hardeman received a $10 million taxpayer bailout in April 2020. However, secret court documents Dolcefino Consulting now possesses show that just a few weeks later, two of those same companies invested more than $7 million in a controversial Austin real estate deal involving the iconic downtown restaurant, Capital Grille.

The Austin real estate fight between Hardeman and Austin real estate magnate Nate Paul of World Class Holdings is already making headlines.

Dolcefino Consulting’s discovery raises serious questions about whether Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) bailout funds—designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll—were improperly used.

A number of lawsuits relating to the foreclosure sales on some of the Austin properties that make up Paul’s vast real estate empire are already riddled with allegations of fraud and what Dolcefino Consulting has uncovered may make the situation even more interesting.

Here is what we know:

Government records show that on April 14, 2020, three of Bryan Hardeman’s companies received PPP funds.

Austin Infiniti, Inc. received $3,719,500 in PPP funds.

Continental Cars, Inc. received $2,665,400 in PPP funds.

Continental Imports, Inc. received $3,962,400 in PPP funds.

Texas Secretary of State records show that on the very same day that the Hardeman companies got their PPP money, a company called Colorado Third Street, LLC, was formed by Austin real estate developer Justin Bayne.

Just two weeks later, Colorado Third Street LLC bought the debt owed by Nate Paul’s company on the Capital Grille property. The property was foreclosed on earlier this month despite Paul’s attempts to pay the debt in full and stop the foreclosure.

These attempts to pay the debt in full were captured on video. Colorado Third Street LLC purchased the $25 million property at the foreclosure sale for just $8,760,000.

Colorado Third Street LLC manager Justin Bayne is a business partner of Bryan Hardeman’s son Will and the nephew of Houston Attorney Mark Riley. Riley served as trustee at the foreclosure sale on the Capital Grille property. What a small world.

Records from a federal bankruptcy case were delivered to Dolcefino Consulting with a return address of Austin Infiniti, Inc.—one of Hardeman’s car dealerships. The documents detail how Bayne was able to buy the debt on the Capital Grille property.

The records show most of the funding for Colorado Third Street, LLC came from Austin Infiniti, Inc. and Continental Cars, Inc. Both companies loaned Colorado Third Street, LLC more than $3.8 million on May 1, 2020—just two weeks after both companies received their PPP bailout money.

Dolcefino Consulting’s expanding real estate investigations began with scrutiny of multiple allegations of fraud involving embattled Houston real estate developer Ali Choudhri. One of Choudhri’s companies has now filed suit in Austin claiming that a May auction handled by Riley and involving another one of Nate Paul’s properties—4811 South Congress Avenue—was rigged.

Maybe Ali Choudhri is just the tip of the Texas real estate iceberg.