The trustee sale of the Kress building Thursday morning drew a large crowd and a couple of interested bidders, but in the end the property went to the beneficiary.
For the opening bid of $2.7 million, AEA Federal Credit Union acquired the deed to the real property at 284 S. Main St., as well as the personal property and liquor license for Top of the Kress.
The popular Top of the Kress nightclub occupied the upper levels of the building. It was closed down just hours after hundreds rang in the New Year there. The ground floor is leased to Da Boyz Italian Cuisine, which remains open.
The Kress, a historic building in downtown Yuma, was purchased in 2007 by Frank Ruiz through his entity, Desert Best Enterprises, with AEA as the lender. Ruiz originally obtained a $2.7 million loan, which subsequently was increased to $7.2 million.
Desert Best Enterprises filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 2, 2010, just four months after Top of the Kress opened its doors. On Nov. 23, 2011, the bankruptcy court issued an order dismissing the bankruptcy, enabling AEA to enforce its rights and remedies for its security interest in the property.
Meanwhile, Ruiz is to be sentenced April 9 for his role in the misuse of AEA funds that cost the financial institution millions of dollars in bad loans and led to its insolvency.
Ruiz had entered a guilty plea to two counts and was a key witness in the trial of co-defendants William Liddle, former vice president of business lending for AEA, and Liddle's wife, Rhonda. Liddle was found guilty of 54 counts of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering; Rhonda Liddle was found guilty of 36 counts.
The Kress building is the latest in efforts by AEA to recover some of the funds it lost through the fraudulent loans made by Liddle that ended in bankruptcy.
Other high-profile properties taken over by AEA include the Yuma Fun Factory, which was later purchased by Brice and Becky Zeller and reopened; the historic Lee Hotel in downtown Yuma that has since been purchased by Gowan Company; and properties owned by developer Todd Burch, which reverted to AEA in a trustee sale in February.
The sale of the Kress property was attended by several people, including downtown property owners who wanted to see what would happen with the building, former Top of the Kress employees, several AEA officials, Yuma County Assessor Joe Wehrle and some interested buyers.
However, none of the potential buyers was eligible to bid, having not brought a $10,000 cashier's check required as a bidder deposit. The manager of Quality Inn Airport and The Dunes Restaurant and Bar had hoped to bid on the liquor license, but it was sold as a single unit with the real estate and personal property.
AEA officials said they could not comment on the sale or future plans for the property as the credit union remains under conservatorship by the National Credit Union Administration. NCUA officials did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Joyce Lobeck can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6853. Find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/YSJoyceLobeck or on Twitter at @YSJoyceLobeck.