Grave Robbers

Even in the great beyond, no one is safe from identity theft

Meanwhile, Dallas County prosecutors let William Tisdale plead no contest to misdemeanor assault for the parking lot incident, and he was given deferred adjudication and probation, meaning his record in that matter was wiped clean this past spring. When he deigned not to pay his $800 fine, a judge gave him seven days in jail.

With his flashy Jaguar somewhere in Dallas, and the matter tied up in a slow-moving investigation, Bulban decided to do a little sleuthing on his own. His leads, he says, were some of the addresses he picked up from the loan application and from glancing at some of the paperwork in Tisdale's Porsche.

They led him to several small frame houses in East Dallas, including one in the 5400 block of Vickery Boulevard. The silver Porsche William Tisdale was driving--which had been bought with fake ID less than a month earlier--was registered at that address. (Although Bulban did not know it at the time, a Suzuki motorcycle allegedly obtained through similar "fraud and device" by another of the accused Tisdale scammers also was registered at the house.) The address also appeared on the Jaguar loan papers, Bulban says.

A couple of mugs: William R. Tisdale Jr., left, and his brother Michael K. Tisdale are accused of sifting through the obits and stealing the identities of the recently deceased. Their alleged spree netted cash, cars and some free shopping at Neiman Marcus.
A couple of mugs: William R. Tisdale Jr., left, and his brother Michael K. Tisdale are accused of sifting through the obits and stealing the identities of the recently deceased. Their alleged spree netted cash, cars and some free shopping at Neiman Marcus.
Robbing the dead: Jennifer Koury, an Austin musician and restaurateur, was among more than a dozen Texans targeted by the identity theft ring. She hadn't even been buried by the time thieves had stolen her credit information, faked a drivers license and went to town with her accounts.
Robbing the dead: Jennifer Koury, an Austin musician and restaurateur, was among more than a dozen Texans targeted by the identity theft ring. She hadn't even been buried by the time thieves had stolen her credit information, faked a drivers license and went to town with her accounts.

Bulban says the house appeared to be unoccupied. "There was a mail slot in the door, and you could see the mail in there, spread out in a pile the size of a mattress," he says. The neighbors told him men would hold late-night parties there, and it was pretty obvious because the street would be crowded with very expensive cars, much flashier than are usually seen in this middle-income area.

Bulban says he had a hunch his car would be among them, but it never panned out. He posted fliers listing a $2,000 reward for his car and handed them out to valets at nightclubs that Dallas police told him were popular with affluent black men, like the man he was looking for. The Jaguar was found about six months later, abandoned in Southern Dallas and stripped to the frame.


Bulban didn't research the ownership history of the house, but if he had, he would have made an interesting discovery.

In April 2001, the Tisdales owned the Vickery Place house; or rather, a company they had formed, Platinum Petroleum Inc., owned it. On April 9, they bought it from the estate of its recently deceased owner. Deed records show that four days earlier, before they gained legal title to the property, they sold it to a man who took out a hefty $237,000 mortgage on the tiny, plain 1,300-square-foot wood-frame bungalow. The deal required an appraisal to match, but several real estate professionals said that wouldn't be hard to get in East Dallas, where the house stock is so varied that values range widely.

The new owner, who left no legal trace of his existence at the house and owned it when all the stolen vehicles were being registered there, defaulted on the loan within eight months.

The house ended up being sold in early 2002 through foreclosure, and today, in far tidier shape, it is worth nearly $50,000 less than the Tisdales' buyer borrowed and paid them.

The lender took a bath. The Tisdales, meanwhile, appear to have made a tidy profit on a "flip" in which they appear to have put up no money.

Through the late 1990s and into 2000, when they were operating with their own credit, the real estate business was far less kind to Michael and William Tisdale.

"Michael was always trying to get a side business going," says Joel Jones, a Farmers agent who shared a suite of offices with Tisdale from 1997 until the feds raided them in July 2002 and Tisdale's nine-year career with Farmers abruptly ended.

Michael Tisdale, a University of North Texas graduate who grew up in Dallas, was making at least $150,000 a year with Farmers, says Jones, who called him a talented salesman and knowledgeable agent. Jones says William Tisdale would come around the office often, working on the brothers' sideline businesses. "He struck me as someone who's trying to get something over on you...I didn't trust him," Jones says. Their father, William R. Tisdale Sr., would also come around. His pleasant nature, which Jones recalls, hardly fits with his criminal history, which includes a variety of theft and drug charges going back decades, as well as one trip to a Texas prison for tax evasion. He owes more than three-quarters of a million dollars in unpaid taxes in connection with a diesel fuel business he ran in Houston in the 1980s, records show.

In 1999, the Tisdale brothers bought five houses as investments--in Dallas, Flower Mound and Sugar Land, outside Houston--under the name Gazelle International Corp. and quickly resold them to themselves, as individuals. In the process, they mortgaged the properties to the hilt, pulling out all the equity they could.

Whether their plan was to resell the houses at a profit, or rent them, or make them pay off in some other way, it didn't work. In the second half of 2000, deed records show, banks took over the Tisdale houses in collections on unpaid loans.

Early the next year, Michael Tisdale's wife, Jada, who also works in the insurance business, filed a divorce petition to end their four-year marriage. In the contentious proceedings, she claimed her husband had been cheating on her. "There really weren't any assets to divide," recalls Stanley Mays, a lawyer who represented Jada Tisdale. "They lived right up to their means."

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