An investor in the helicopter kit company that owes Red Willow County $300,000+ says that he owns equipment that Pawnee Aviation owner Ron Willocks used as collateral.
Thomas Leach of Scott, La., said Monday morning during a stop at the Gazette that he, like the county, has tried unsuccessfully to notify Willocks that he plans to sue him for the return of his equipment. "He's hiding," Leach said. "He won't even answer his phone."
Leach said he leased a lathe, a band saw and a milling machine to Willocks for $1 a year, hoping that Willocks' helicopter kit company would be successful and profitable. "I wanted Ron to be successful," Leach said, explaining that he invested $16,000 with Willocks in Pawnee Aviation. "I was a helicopter pilot in the military. I thought Willocks was making a helicopter kit I thought would work pretty good."
Leach said that when Willocks started a second company, "Pawnee Research," Willocks wanted an additional $25,000. Leach said, however, that he knew Willocks had no experience as a helicopter pilot or mechanic. "I became skeptical about his ability to make a helicopter," Leach said. So, instead of investing money, he decided that he would purchase the machining equipment and lease it to Willocks, for $1 a year.
Willocks writes in a letter to Leach dated Feb. 27, 2004: "This letter is to ... confirm our agreement for the equipment you are purchasing. I will lease the equipment for one year per year for five years. Once we are in production, the equipment will be signed over to Pawnee Research as your investment for five per cent of the Pawnee Research Inc. stock. I will send you a notarized agreement for this with all of the equipment listed with their serial numbers."
Leach has produced invoices for the purchase of the equipment and confirmation from sellers.
"If he (Willocks) went under, I'd just get my equipment back," Leach said.
Leach said that Willocks listed Leach's equipment as his own in documentation to the county, and overestimated its value. Leach said he bought the lathe for $8,107, the band saw for $2,123 and the milling machine for $8,400 for a total of $18,630.
Willocks' "machine tool inventory" to the county indicates the values of the lathe at $11,000, the band saw at $3,000 and the milling machine at $20,000, for a total of $34,000.
Leach said he wants the equipment back so it can be transferred to another contract that he has in Guernsey, Wyo. "I've had to buy another milling machine, for $18,073," Leach said.
Leach is retired from Exxon/Mobile, for whom he flew a helicopter in a pipeline contract, and then worked later as an electrician.
While Leach was in McCook Monday, he also contacted Paul Wood, Red Willow County attorney; Rex Nelson, director of the McCook Economic Development Corp.; and the McCook Police Department and Red Willow County Sheriff's Department.