The breakup of a business partnership leads to litigation, claims of harassment, a restraining order and fear
March 15, 2007
By Abigail Goldman
Las Vegas Sun
It is hard to imagine, looking at Jeremy Hunt’s wedding photos, just how foul things would get. Poised for the portrait, there’s Hunt, honorably discharged Air Force vet. His bride, a beaming brunette. And there, part of the wedding party, stands Steve Hawks, smiling groomsman.
Within two years of that camera’s flash, Hunt and Hawks, business associates and, better yet, friends, were embroiled in ugly lawsuits. Shortly thereafter, Hunt says, the harassment began.
What has happened to Hunt since can only be considered a feat of obsessive rage; three years of stalking, spying, slander. Death threats, restraining orders and humiliating posters Hunt says Hawks pasted throughout Las Vegas. Empty packages of cheddar cheese, mailed to Hunt’s office as some kind of insult. The terrorism of a fuming friend.
Hawks did jail time last year, and swore before a scolding judge that his trouble with Hunt was over, “part of the past, for good.” But it has started again, and the district attorney’s office has taken note: Jeremy Hunt, a grown man, is glancing over his shoulder still.
Hunt was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in 2000 when he met Hawks, a real estate agent. When Hunt started work as a loan officer for a mortgage lender the next year, he offered to finance Hawks’ clients. The men meshed and started marketing their services together.
It worked well until November 2003. What happened after depends on whom you ask. Hunt said Hawks wanted kickbacks on the loans he referred. Hawks said he fired Hunt for “doing fraudulent stuff.” They fought and parted, not cleanly. “I still remained fairly successful in the business,” Hunt said. “It just burned him.”
In May 2004, Hunt found a buyer for a Las Vegas home he owned. Hawks stopped the sale by placing a $100,000 lien on the property. Hawks said he had an oral agreement with Hunt to split the sale proceeds; Hunt said this isn’t true.
Hawks filed the first suit, seeking part of the profit. (Hunt’s lawyer advised him to settle, saying it would cost more to defend himself. Hunt ended up paying Hawks $42,500 last year.) But when the suit was filed, Hunt said, the harassment began. First, Hunt found the parking lot of his Eastern Avenue office complex littered with hundreds of Hawks’ direct mailers.
Then the lot was bombed with photocopies: a pornographic photograph doctored to suggest Hunt is the subject, an article about shady mortgage lenders modified so that Hunt’s name appears in the text, fake five-day notices to pay rent or leave, copies of Hunt’s credit report with Social Security number, and, copies of a court case charging someone named Jeremy Hunt with possession of controlled substances and solicitation of a minor.
When that Jeremy Hunt was in court, however, this Jeremy Hunt was active-duty Air Force, stationed in Kuwait. Hawks has denied he is responsible. The first fax came to Hunt’s office on Nov. 11, 2004 – an anonymous death certificate. “That’s when we freaked the heck out,” Hunt said. Then the phone calls started. Hunt reports that Hawks called in February 2005 and said, “Listen here, you (expletive). I haven’t even started yet. You are dead. You and your family are dead.”
Hawks called three more times that month, Hunt said, at dawn or earlier, and always with threats. Then posters started popping up. At first, they were just plain paper, different colors and sizes but with a similar message. One read, “JEREMY HUNT IS A COMPULSIVE LIAR.” Another: “JEREMY HUNT IS A CROOK.” A third poster featured Hunt’s photo pasted over the shoulders of Notre Dame’s punchy mascot. It said, “Jeremy Hunt, the crooked leprechaun.”
Hunt filed a request for a restraining order in May 2005. One judge asked for more proof, then went on vacation. Hunt’s attorney eventually lugged a box of posters and papers to Justice of the Peace Nancy Oesterle, who approved Hunt’s request. To make the ruling official, however, Hawks had to be served with the order.
It takes three private investigators four months to get the restraining order in Hawks’ hands.
Hal de Becker III, head of De Becker Investigations, was the first to be successful. He filmed himself approaching Hawks in a parking lot on Nov. 16, 2005, calling Hawks’ name as the Realtor ducks into his car. De Becker said, “You’ve been served,” before pacing backward to film the license plate of Hunt’s silver Lexus.
Hawks said this tape is doctored and that he was never informed of the order. Court documents say otherwise. Hunt said Hawks called four days later and said, “You are done.” The following day, Hunt’s attorney filed a motion to hold Hawks in contempt of violating the restraining order. A legal paradox prevented Oesterle from issuing charges. “I can’t actually hold him in contempt of court today because he’s not present in court to hold him in contempt of court,” Oesterle said.
A De Becker Investigations’ operative observed Hawks’ car in Hunt’s office lot one month later. He watched Hawks scatter several “crook” papers onto the pavement. In the mess, Wohler found bank documents belonging to Hawks.
Hawks said he didn’t do it.
In September Hunt’s pregnant wife walked out of work to find her car covered in “crook” posters. She called her husband, crying, and drove home. “He had no way of knowing where she worked without following her,” Hunt said.
Hawks was sentenced to 25 days in jail for violating Hunt’s restraining order. At the hearing, Hawks’ attorney, Steve Stein, said: “I don’t want it on my conscience … that someday in the future one of these two young men will kill each other. Whether one is in self-defense or one is a murder, I don’t know, but I don’t want to see it happen.”
Hawks’ other attorney, Luis Rojas, told the judge a psychiatrist is willing to work with Hawks on obsessive anger management issues. Then Rojas gave Hawks the floor.
“There will be no other, any kind of material distributed by me, any kind of materials regarding Mr. Hunt generated by me, nor will I participate in any third party doing it, nor will I encourage any third party doing it,” Hawks said. “There will be no materials coming from me in any way, shape, fashion or form.” In return for Hawks’ willingness to cooperate, Hunt agreed not to go forward with felony charges. This is a decision he has come to regret.
One private investigator, a former Metro officer, told Hunt that Hawks won’t stop until he’s put behind bars. But when Hunt calls the cops to report he had Hawks in his sights, a violation of the restraining order, he’s told they can’t do anything. “So I have to get killed to get help,” Hunt said.
Investigators from District Attorney David Roger’s office contacted Hunt’s lawyer for the first time last week. They’re looking into the case, Roger said, but they can’t do a thing until Metro Police provides a complete investigation. Hunt estimates he filed at least half a dozen police reports in the past three years. Hunt said police never investigated seriously.
Hunt spent roughly $22,000 on private investigators, more than $66,000 on attorney fees, and he’s not done yet. Last week, a former business associate called Hunt to say someone sent him a bizarre pamphlet of papers accusing Hunt of running a fraudulent investment scheme. Further prodding proved that an identical pamphlet was sent to at least 20 people Hunt has done business with.
unt has thoughts about who’s responsible. “He’s on a campaign to destroy my life,” Hunt said. “I’m just afraid he’s going to lose it. That turns my stomach every day.” The two men are still locked in litigation over attorney fees. They’re scheduled to appear in court next month. Hunt said he’s considering a new line of work. Pausing a beat, he sighed and said he would like to get into video surveillance. “It’s gotten to a point where I can’t stop,” he said. “I’m always looking over my shoulder, constantly.”
Abigail Goldman can be reached at 259-8806 or at firstname.lastname@example.org