Lost Society scam unraveled by paperwork and stupidity

The arrests last week of Lost Society's Brightman Nwatu and Fernando Rosales were not a result of the death of a bar patron a few weeks ago. They were the result of painstaking - and ploddingly slow - research and investigations by a number of state and federal law enforcement agencies. Nwatu had enough sense to evade deportation since 2005, but not enough to avoid signing his name to any legal documents that could be traced.

Despite the claims by Lost Society employees, he is not getting out of jail very soon. In a few weeks, Nwatu will be saying Ka omesia (goodbye in Ibo, a language of Nigeria) as ICE puts his butt on a plane (forget seatbelts, they use handcuffs) and deports his butt back to Nigeria. BD's got the paper trail from his deportation hearings to his phony business names.

Late Thursday afternoon, Nwatu's bond was increased to $25,000 and five more charges were filed against him.

Owner of Lower Greenville bar popular with SMU students accused of serving minors, faces deportation - Dallas Morning News 6/29/2010

According to his own pro se filings (acting as his own attorney), Nwatu has been in the United States for nearly 20 years, and attended the University of Texas. Around 1992, he was arrested and convicted of passing bad checks; a deportation hearing was called. The hearings were never held due to technical issues and an inability to find Nwatu, BD's I-am-not-a-lawyer review of the documents shows.

Sometime in 2004, Nwatu was taken into custody by federal authorities, and held at the federal detention facility in Los Fresnos, TX. He filed a handwritten appeal on December 15, 2004, asking for an emergency stay of deportation since he believed state court was the proper venue for this issue. He also stated his intent to ask for an attorney to be appointed for him at government expense. In all subsequent filings on the federal and state level, Nwatu acted as his own attorney. He was released from federal custody in late January 2005.

According to federal court documents filed by Nwatu in February 2005 -

The proceedings were suspended [until] probation is revoked, or expungement is refused, or until respondent has had a reasonable opportunity to obtain an expungement after discharge from probation, which event occurs first.

In 1996, the [INS] moved to recalendar proceedings and a hearing was set for February 14, 1996 despite the fact that none of the stipulations of the 1992 decision had been met as to warrant a re-opening of the proceedings.

In early 2005, Nwatu filed a pauper's petition in federal court, pleading for relief from paying any filing fees, posting a bond, and claiming no income for the prior 12 months. He included in the petition a claim that he had never been informed of any deportation proceedings against him prior to this time, even though he had a valid post office box address while attending the University of Texas at Austin.

On February 7, 2005, he filed an Application for Writ of Habeas Corpus (release from the federal case) in state district court in Travis County. That petition was denied on March 2, 2005. On May 2, 2005, the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Nwatu's petition for a rehearing, effectively ordering the deportation to proceed. At this point, Nwatu falls off the radar in Austin.

In 2006, Nwatu is in Dallas, where he reopens Coconuts Grill as Brown Jug, then changes the name to SideBar. During the time he was at SideBar, Nwatu claimed to be the owner, and that he had a brother running a club in Austin on his behalf. SideBar was closed down under circumstances relating to subterfuge isssues similar to the Lost Society case in Fall 2008. That brought Nwatu into TABC's line of fire, prompting a slow and painstakingly detailed investigation.

On December 19, 2008, at 426pm, Nwatu and Rosales filed in Dallas County an Assumed Name Record for an Unincorporated Business under the name Lost Society. It's the first step in getting your business off the ground, because it's needed to get a bank account, a sales tax number, etc.

On January 1, 2009, Rosales files for the creation of Initiative Partners, LLC, a corporation in the State of Texas, naming himself as the only officer of the corporation and applied for a TABC permit. A few months later, Lost Society opened for business on Lowest Greenville in the former Suede location. A few noise complaints were filed due to music on the rooftop patio, but not much else happens after that.

Sensing trouble if anyone found the original county filings. Nwatu and Rosales go back to the Dallas County Courthouse on January 6, 2010 and file documents to withdraw the Lost Society business name and abandon the business entity (Rosales doc, Nwatu doc). A few minutes later, Rosales files another Assumed Name Record for an Unincorporated Business as Inititative Partners, LLC.

Nwatu and Rosales screwed up when they filed together for the Lost Society name. Nwatu's name could not be used in filing for a TABC permit, since a background check would have revealed his being on the deportation orders list. So they cancel the business filings, then refile under Rosales' name alone. But they failed to understand that simply abandoning a name does not mean all the records - or intents - are also abandoned. The original records never go away and obviously came back to haunt them last week.

By claiming to be the owner, when in fact he was just Nwatu's front man, Rosales broke the law when he filed for a TABC permit. It's just a matter of time until the TABC revokes their permit and Lost Society becomes another in a long line of scumbars on Lowest Greenville to close their doors. Nwatu added to the confusion by using different names on the street, mostly blamed on his formal English accent. Almost no one BD spoke to know him as Brightman Nwatu, a manager at Lost Society; on Lowest Greenville he was Brian Nuwad, the owner of Lost Society. And everyone knew he lived in the bar, usually sleeping on the rooftop patio and having breakfast at 7-Eleven.

The deportation issue was not the only thing that got Nwatu and Rosales in trouble. Too many strange things were going on at Lost Society, which caught the attention of more investigators, which resulted in more cooperation and coordination. The shooting of a bar patron after he left Lost Society a few weeks ago did not set off the final alarm, but it illustrated how fast Nwatu needed to be pulled off the street.

It's nice when the good guys finally win one.

By Avi S. Adelman under Public safety , Lower Greenville