Escape From American Game Exchange
by Paul Morantz
copyright August 2011
It was after my settlement with Synanon in the early 80’s, either just before or during the start of the Center For Feeling Therapy case. My older brother Lewis Morantz was hospitalized with mononucleosis and hepatitis. He was literally yellow. Worse for him, his wife had runoff with another man, so grossly insecure that she was unable to resist any way to prove to everyone her desirability. His three kids were now being raised by my mother.
By the time he got well his law practice was gone. He was burdened with gambling debts from a life of card playing and sports betting. I bought him a car.
Then he called with an idea. It was the time of video arcade madness, where the kids hung out, and he said his love for games far exceeded his interest in law. He wanted to start his own arcade. I said bad idea– it’s a fad that will end.
But he convinced my uncle and cousin so I guaranteed a 3rd of the bank loan. It was the first time I had money in my life, although for me I still just sat around and anguished Trudy was gone.
My brother found a corporation called The American Game Exchange located in San Diego which sold “turn key” video arcades. This meant for a fee it found your location, negotiated the lease, got the permit and provided the games. I told my brother he was a lawyer and did not have to pay the extra premium, he could find his own location, negotiate his lease and apply for a permit.
What attracted my brother was for what was about an extra $20,000 for a year you could exchange any game that was not doing well for another. I thought the amount was excessive but again I was out voted.
AGE found a location, negotiated a rental agreement all subject to obtaining a city permit. But in December the founder and CEO, Brad Edwards, telephoned my brother and said in January the manufacturer was raising the prices on the games and if he wanted to preserve his prices he would pay off $150,000 now. Without contacting us my brother did it, somehow not remembering there was a contract setting the prices between him and AGE and if the manufacturer raised the prices that was AGE’s problem not ours. My brother felt he safeguarded us by having a signed proviso that if the permit was denied the money was returned.
And sure enough the permit was denied and by February my brother called me to say there was a problem. Edwards was stalling and not returning the money. The next thing we knew, AGE and Edwards filed for bankruptcy. There was a host of other victims who had turned over their retirement funds and received nothing back. No one knew where the money went. The bank demanded payment and I was suddenly out $50,000 earned in snake venom.
The first thing I did was go to the courthouse to see if there had been civil suits filed in the past against Edwards. What I found was worse. He had two fraud criminal convictions and while doing time he had the gall of a sociopath to actually petition the court to ask for expungement of his convictions because he wanted to start a video game franchise operation and franchise law required disclosure of any felonies. Fortunately, the court was smart enough to know the reason for the law and denied his petition. So instead of franchises he set up and sold separate arcades. The problem was that the “turn key” statutes likewise required disclosure of felony convictions.
My first step was to file in bankruptcy court in San Diego a petition claiming that unlike the other victims we had paid in full so therefore we owned the video games AGE did have. I was finally able to settle this for $15,000. There wasn’t that many games and the old retirees needed to get something back. We were probably better able to accept the loss.
And I had still had a better plan up my sleeve. AGE had an in house lawyer with a malpractice insurance policy but since we were not the client we could not claim malpractice. So I sued all the employees of AGE claiming they participated in an illegal scam and were thus individually liable. Of course, none of them had money. I contacted each of them by phone and said, “Look, I know I am suing you but if you trust me I promise you I will get you out of this.” I provided to each a cross-complaint to file against the in house lawyer for malpractice for not advising them (clients) the business was illegal (no disclosure of felony records). Now I would have indirect access to the attorney’s insurance carrier. When the smoke cleared my own net return was $65,000 which means I made $15,000 on the deal.
Of course, what he had done to my brother, his guilt and confidence, and our relationship, was unforgivable. I worked with the San Diego District Attorney’s Office and once again Brad Edwards was convicted of fraud.
I wrote to court about Edwards prior convictions, and the facts he actually tried to have his convictions set aside to aid new his fraud plan. I explained I had special experience with sociopaths over the last 8 years and that that Edwards was clearly one. I said society had far more sociopaths (no conscious) than people realize just the only ones you hear about commit serial murder (very few do—there is no reason—most become real estate barons, media kings, President or design cars that in Steven Spielberg movies can take us into the future). Edwards, I assured the Court, if he ever finds it required, will kill without hesitation. For that reason, I said, he must be locked away for as long as possible.
I don’t know if the Court bought my guarantee but the grapevine was Edwards was going away for 7 years. I decided to fly down to San Diego on sentencing day. I brought along a toy guillotine. My plan was to make eye contact with him and then start lifting the guillotine and letting it drop. Lift it again and smiling letting it go. Over and over.
Problem was, he was a no-show. He had conned the bail bondsman into taking his home as security when I knew there was no principal because of back taxes liens.
Sometime over a year later I called the district attorney in San Diego and asked if they ever caught Brad Edwards. Then he told me the following story:
Months after his flight, Edwards called his wife’s parents and said there had been a car accident in Texas and that he was sorry but their daughter was dead. He then hung up. Not satisfied, his wife’s sister decided to do her own search. Edwards she remembered liked his cocaine. So she thought maybe Miami. Keep in mind that at this time Brad Edwards was a fugitive from justice being supposedly looked for by multiple police agencies, federal and state, as well as by a defrauded bail bonds man. The sister simply telephoned the information operator in Miami. Brad Edwards telephone number and address were listed.
She went down to Miami, spied and found Edwards was now living with his ex AGE secretary. The sister asked a neighbor if he had seen anything suspicious and he replied that he had seen Edwards boarding up his garage.
She hired two cubans fresh off the boat to break into the garage. What they found was a fresh cemented floor.
Brad Edwards was convicted for the murder of his wife and sentenced to be executed. Wouldn’t it be something, I thought, if Florida suddenly decided to execute by guillotine.
As for my brother, he found a job working as an attorney for the Zenith Corporation (Workmen’s Comp) and remarried in 1988. No person I had ever known in my life had done such a complete turn around. He had a nice home in Tarzana, a happy marriage and had exchanged gambling for golf.
In 2004 in order to live he had to have a bone marrow transplant. Twice after going through radiation and chemotherapy he got infected because UCLA Hospital didn’t know how to clean a room. Twice he had to be brought back so he could fight off infection with an immune system and then go through the radiation and chemo again. The transplant was working when my brother got infected a third time and died from mold.
The lesson here was no Trojan ever belonged in a UCLA Hospital.
I couldn’t believe the turn out at his funeral. He was truly loved at Zenith. When it was my time, I knew, I would never have half that turn out.
He was at the end a better man than I.