Search for owners of Wichita apartments with poor living conditions comes up empty
WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) - Black mold to holes in the walls and, bugs falling from the ceiling. That is the disgusting mess that some south Wichita renters say they're stuck with.
"As you can tell, I mean you can just smell the mold like when you walk in."
KAKE reporters who've visited the Emery Garden Apartments over the last week say you can smell the rot before you step inside.
Each time we've done a story, there has been an effort to reach the owners of the complex... with no luck.
The apartment complex's website shows the Texas-based ATM Group Property Management runs the facility.
But a check of the Texas Secretary of State's records shows that it's forfeited the right to do business thereby not filing the required paperwork.
Sedgwick County tax records show two companies as the property owners: FPKS Apartments and Wichita 18, but their registrations with the state lead back to other companies.
The search then took KAKE to Kentucky where company registrations showed addresses in New York. Which then led to registrations in Delaware and a dead end.
The same company names showed up in state after state, forming a circle as one registers the next in a cross-country loop.
"Somebody that's going to do business in a manner that I think the tenants are running into there," said Dr. Larry Straub from Newman University. "They want to be as invisible as possible."
Straub is a business professor at Newman University. He says the difficulty we had tracking down the owner doesn't necessarily mean anything shady is going on.
Real Estate Expert Dr. Stan Longhofer at Wichita State agrees.
"That's not entirely uncommon, and some of it is perfectly innocuous," Longhofer said. "Sometimes people set up different entities for a lot of different tax purposes and legal purposes."
But that dead end we ran into in Delaware could hint at something more.
Hal Weitzman in his book "What's the Matter with Delaware" says his investigation into the state's business laws uncovered everything from criminal conspiracies to wealthy tax avoidance and political dark money.
"These types of operations will tend to group up in certain states that have probably more favorable or even lax regulations, rules, even laws," Straub.
This is why he says the best thing these tenants could have done was to get their story out to the public which they did.
One of the shell corporations in Delaware did tell KAKE that the ATM group which apparently manages the apartments closed there back in 2009.