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Former Red Steer owner starts development firm
Arson, fraud charges still pending
tracy smith
Tracy Smith

Tracy Smith, who is facing criminal charges of arson for the blaze that destroyed the Red Steer restaurant in Turlock and fraud allegations, is manning a new development company and is looking for investors.

Smith is listed as the Chief Executive Officer for the Turlock-based company Consolidated Reliance. A press release from the company states they have set a five year goal to build “200 high quality low-income housing units in Stanislaus County.”

In the press release, Smith said he founded Consolidated Reliance with the “sole purpose of identifying undervalued properties and businesses, acquiring them, and capitalizing on such opportunities…”

One such property under speculation from Consolidated Reliance is at 146 N. Golden State Boulevard, a large two-story lot with multiple business spaces, including the old home of Jura’s Pizza Parlor. Consolidated Reliance’s website states it wants to refurbish the building so that the first floor would be home to four businesses and the second floor would be converted into eight apartments.

Gary Curtis, the chief development officer for Consolidated Reliance, said the apartments would be for retired seniors “with no age restriction.”

“Downtown businesses will have a built-in customer base,” Curtis said.

Consolidated Reliance recently met with city officials for a pre-development meeting about the Golden State Boulevard property. Pre-development meetings are a free service the city offers to go over potential building plans and see if they align with zoning codes, design parameters, and building safety guidelines. If Consolidated Reliance submits a building permit request, city staff could approve it, if it doesn’t have any special concerns and meets all the requirements.

“It’s all about the building code and safety issues… past that we don’t make any judgments,” said Maryn Pitt, the city’s Housing and Economic Development Manager.

In the Consolidated Reliance press release, Smith says the company will be constructing its projects with “higher standards” of materials and finishes. It plans on funding the projects “from current ventures as well as raising investment capital both locally and from across the country.”

The company’s website lists projects at 708 H St. and 400 to 450 Burney St., both in Modesto and 6807 3rd St. in Riverbank. The property on H Street is complete and is being leased to Vision Graphix, according to Consolidated Reliance.

Smith founded Consolidated Reliance in 2012, while his criminal and civil suits continued to trail him. Smith is currently awaiting trial on charges he and his cousin, Jeremy Britt, orchestrated the fire that left the Red Steer restaurant in ruins in an alleged scheme to cash in on an insurance settlement.

Smith is facing an arson charge, while Britt is charged with aggravated arson, because he has a prior conviction for the same offense. In 2005, Britt pled no contest in Kern County to arson for setting his ex-girlfriend’s car on fire.

A follow-up investigation into the fire by the Turlock police and fire departments revealed the fire originated in the attic and that an accelerant was used.

The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting the arson case, alleges Smith set the restaurant on fire to claim the insurance money. According to the prosecution, Smith was in debt for more than $1 million.

During a preliminary hearing in 2011, a Turlock police detective testified that Smith told him that numerous payroll checks from the Red Steer had bounced and that he was “bleeding it dry” in an effort to save his company, Drc Framing, Inc.

Smith’s defense attorney Alexandria Carl argued he had no financial benefit for setting the restaurant on fire because the majority of the $1.1 million insurance payout would have gone to the mortgage companies.

A Stanislaus County Superior Court judge ruled there was enough cause to hold both Smith and Britt over for trial on the arson charges.

About two weeks after his arrest on the arson charge, Smith was charged with three felony counts of passing bad checks. Months later, in November 2009, he was charged with two more felony counts of passing bad checks. Smith has pled not guilty and the charges are trailing the arson case.

Before the arson trial could begin, Smith was brought up on additional criminal charges.

On Jan. 26, 2012, and Jan. 30, 2012, arrest warrants were issued for Smith and a Manuel Arroyo for five felony counts each of obtaining money/etc. by false pretenses, according to court records.

The charges stem back to 2007 and allege Smith and Arroyo fraudulently obtained $800,000 from a 69-year-old Turlock woman for an investment opportunity that never materialized.

According to the court records, the woman told Turlock Police investigators that she gave Smith and Arroyo $800,000 to invest in a large parcel of land in Atwater that would become the home of a racetrack, lodgings, restaurants and other businesses.

The woman told the detective she was promised she would get $912,000 back within eight months of her investment. Instead, she was paid $3,500 over an 18 month period, according to the court records. She told the investigator she got the money by taking out home loans on some of her properties and because she wasn’t paid back two of the properties were foreclosed upon.

The 69-year-old was given handwritten notarized notes promising the return of her investment and profits.

Some of the investment checks were deposited into Smith’s bank account, according to the court records.

A preliminary hearing for that case has been set for Aug. 12.

From the time before the fire at the Red Steer and more notably after, Smith and the different companies he has owned, including Drc Framing and Valley Signatures Properties, have been named in numerous civil suits. Some have been resolved, while others remain open, according to the court records.

When asked if Consolidated Reliance was concerned about the allegations against Smith, Curtis replied: “Not at all. I assure you he will fare well in any court proceedings. We’re looking forward to the truth coming out. I’m sure he will come out with flying colors.”

— Kristina Hacker contributed to this report.