Legislative candidate faces financial troubles, denies domestic disturbance details

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 4,443 views 

Ongoing financial and past personal issues have emerged for Max Avery, the Republican candidate in the Arkansas House District 49 race, which represents the northern part of Fort Smith. Avery says he is working with creditors, and claims innocence in a 2017 assault charge.

Avery has been endorsed by the political action committee of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and faces Rep. Jay Richardson, D-Fort Smith, in the November general election.

In his statement of financial interest submitted when he filed as a candidate, Avery listed Guardian Payment Systems and CDL Academy, a truck driving training company, as his sources of income. He has said in previous published reports that his businesses employ more than 70 people and generate more than $1 million in annual revenue.

Avery, who was born Max Avery Rodriguez and in November 2018 legally changed his name to Maximus Tyrannus Avery, has defaulted on several loans and in 2017 faced a felony charge for assault with a weapon, according to recent reporting from Little Rock attorney and blogger Matt Campbell, and documents obtained by Talk Business & Politics.

According to court documents, Avery obtained a $50,000 loan in January 2019 from First National Bank of Fort Smith through his company Bolding Construction. His house at 304 S. 14th St., in downtown Fort Smith was collateral for the loan. Also in January 2019, Avery received a $150,000 loan from United Federal Credit Union (UFCU) through his construction business. The UFCU loan was in addition to a previous UFCU loan to Avery of $545,000 and a UFCU home equity line of credit of $141,000. Avery’s home in downtown Fort Smith was put up as collateral for all the UFCU debt.

In November 2019, Avery also received a more than $83,000 loan from Forward Financing.

Avery altered his First National Bank loan in early 2020 to make interest-only payments. But by late 2020, Avery began defaulting on his loans, and the banks took Avery to court.

Max Avery

In March 2022, Sebastian County Circuit Court Judge Dianna Hewitt Ladd ruled against Avery and awarded UFCU almost $740,000 in principal, interest, and other fees. The order also awarded First National Bank about $57,000 in principal and interest owed. The order, dated March 22, also required Avery to in 45 days provide a schedule of all real and personal property, which is expected to include a 2004 Lamborghini Gallardo Avery bought in early 2019. As of June 28, Avery had not submitted the required schedule to UFCU or the Sebastian County Circuit Clerk’s office.

Avery told Talk Business & Politics that Bolding Construction employees embezzled money and he has since been working to resolve loan payment problems.

“I have every intention to pay anyone that’s owed money. It’s unfortunate, but basically, I had some individuals take a bunch of money and run up a bunch of credit in my name and I got left holding the bag,” Avery said.

He also said he was advised it would cost too much money to pursue prosecution against those who stole from him so he dropped the issue and moved on.

Through his attorney Michael Collins, Avery said he is working with UFCU and First National, and because of the negotiations he did not have to submit the schedule ordered by Judge Ladd.

“Our strategy basically has been, ‘Let’s figure out how to pay all these people off.’ And so we’ve been slowly going through and paying any of the debts that have been outstanding as quickly as possible. And he’s (Collins) in active negotiations with everyone involved,” Avery said.

Avery said he paid First National Bank $10,000 “a couple of weeks ago” and is making payments to the bank with a new plan that is to begin July 1. He also said he continues to make payments to UFCU.

“We’re making payments to them (UFCU) like normal. It’s just behind at the moment, but they’re basically negotiating how they want to move forward with it,” Avery explained.

Campbell’s reporting also uncovered a March 2017 incident that resulted in Avery, then Rodriguez, facing several charges related to a domestic disturbance in which he twice pointed a handgun at another person, according to a Van Buren Police Department report.

He would be charged with a class D felony and two class A misdemeanors. In September 2017, Avery pleaded no contest to the charges and received three years of probation. Because he had no prior convictions, Avery’s charges were expunged after the three years of probation.

In Tuesday’s (June 28) interview with Talk Business & Politics, Avery initially said the charges were dropped and he became involved in a fight to protect Sarah, a former girlfriend from her boyfriend at the time. Avery said Sarah called him for his help. But the charges weren’t dropped, and the police report disputes Avery’s version of the story.

“Sarah gave the same accounts, only adding that she did not ask Max to come over. She stated while they were dating, he had hit her on a few occasions and after they broke up had just randomly showed up where her and Seth were. Sarah said she ran back in the house because her two daughters were in there and she was afraid of what Max was going to do,” noted the report dated March 5, 2017.

And while Sarah and her boyfriend both reported that Avery pointed a handgun, Avery denied doing so. When told his use of a gun was in the police report, Avery said, “I’d have to go back and look at the full report.”

When pressed for a yes/no answer on if he pointed a gun at anyone during the disturbance, Avery said, “No. To my recollection, no.”

In his most recent campaign finance report filed June 14, Avery reports receiving $9,475 in donations to his House District 49 campaign. The biggest donors are the HUCK-Pac ($2,900), the Republican Party of Arkansas ($2,900), and Fort Smith-based nursing home operator Michael Morton ($2,900).

Avery is also vice chair of the Arkansas District Export Council (DEC). There are 61 councils in eight regions working with nearly 1,500 exporters and export service providers to support the U.S. government’s export promotion efforts. Jonathan Bricker, DEC chairman, declined to comment on details of the reporting into Avery’s past or if the council would review Avery’s membership. He did say the council is a volunteer based, non-partisan, educational organization, and Avery has been “an involved member” in the past three years and has helped raise awareness of the council’s services.

“This personal information on Max is obviously new to us on the export council just like it is to everybody else,” Bricker said.

Link here to Campbell’s reporting on Avery’s financial problems, and link here for his reporting on Avery’s assault incident.