Bobby Willis sought for racketeering, embezzlement, fraud
Police in New Mexico allege that the organizer of last year’s aborted Bobby’s Birthday Bash in Mesa County stole millions from investors who were lured by promises of a construction project that never materialized.
Bobby L. Willis, 40, last known a resident of Branson, Mo., was still wanted Tuesday after authorities in San Juan County, N.M, issued an arrest warrant accusing him of racketeering, five counts of embezzlement, fraud and securities fraud. The warrant has a $1 million bond.
Farmington Police Department Cpl. Russ Bradford said Tuesday that Willis was not in custody and that authorities are searching for him.
Willis in May 2011 backed out of plans for a country music festival at the Mesa County Fairgrounds and provided no explanation for the cancellation in a letter sent to Mesa County administrators. Mesa County commissioners approved the festival after Willis relocated the venue from Loma, and in the face of a lawsuit by Country Jam USA.
A 14-page arrest warrant affidavit alleges Willis, the former owner of New Mexico Title Co., and New Mexico Title Escrow Co., convinced investors to back a hospital project in Kirtland, N.M., before stealing money from escrow accounts for personal use. One investor told police Willis stole a little more than $1.5 million for the hospital project, the affidavit said. He was promised 10 percent ownership of the project once completed, but became increasingly suspicious when Willis started repeatedly changing the business plan.
“Every time (investor) would ask for his money or other assets, Willis would tell him that he would get the money back, but would never follow through with the return of the assets,” the affidavit said. “Willis would say that he had a group of investors that would buy him out, but this never came through.”
The same investor said he gave another $8 million to Willis for an investment in classic cars and $6 million in jewelry and gemstones.
The affidavit suggests numerous other victims of Willis’ alleged fraud.
New Mexico Title Co. in Farmington was shuttered by state authorities in February and an inspection found more than $78,000 in cash, checks and money orders were being stored in a metal file cabinet, not a bank account as required under New Mexico law, the affidavit said. The Farmington Daily Times reported state investigators had previously found refrigerated beer kegs, an ornate bar and a pool table inside the business.
Investigators identified “at least” 66 checks or money transfers drawing off customer escrow accounts starting in March 2010, but the customers never saw the money, the affidavit said.
The payouts allegedly included one check signed by Willis for $132,880, the yearly fee for an executive suite at Denver Broncos football games. Among numerous other payments, Willis gave $3,000 to the political campaign for San Juan County (New Mexico) Sheriff Ken Christensen, the affidavit said.
Willis, and his wife, Carrie, were the subject of a welfare check earlier this month by police in Branson, while officers were disturbed by what they found inside the couple’s home. The basement of the home was under construction, while one wall “appeared to have been torn out to accommodate three very large safes,” the affidavit said. Officers observed several firearms “strategically placed” in two of the bedrooms, the affidavit said.
“Carrie’s room ... had a shotgun in one corner, and an assault rifle in another. There was also a handgun on a night stand and an empty handgun holster on a dresser,” a Branson police officer observed.
“Bobby’s room ... had a scoped rifle behind the door, an assault rifle in one corner and a handgun on a night stand. I observed multiple loaded handgun magazines, ballistic tip rifle ammo and several cell phones on the dresser.”