The Red Steer, which was once a staple of Turlock’s dining scene, has sat vacant in the two and a half years since it was ravaged by fire and has now been put up for sale.
The property is being listed by PMZ Real Estate and agent Rob Stevens said it was being sold by the entity that foreclosed on the previous owners. The last listed owners, according to Stanislaus County property tax records, were Shae and Tracy Smith.
Tracy Smith is currently awaiting trial on charges he and his cousin, Jeremy Britt, orchestrated the blaze that destroyed the restaurant 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 judge ruled after a preliminary hearing in April 2011, that there was sufficient cause to hold both men over for trial.
The real estate information for the Red Steer lists both the lot and land for sale at a starting price of $195,000. The restaurant sustained structural damage from the fire and the doors have been shuttered ever since.
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.
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.
The legal troubles for Smith did not start or end with his arrest for arson on July 15, 2009. He has had multiple civil suits filed against him from plaintiffs seeking money allegedly owed by Smith and/or the other companies he owns. Smith is the president of Valley Signature Properties, Inc., which was founded in 2003 and is currently suspended, according to records from the California Secretary of State office. The Secretary of State office classifies a business as suspended if: “The business entity's powers, rights and privileges were suspended or forfeited in California 1) by the Franchise Tax Board for failure to file a return and/or failure to pay taxes, penalties, or interest; and/or 2) by the Secretary of State for failure to file the required Statement of Information and, if applicable, the required Statement by Common Interest Development Association.”
Valley Signature Properties, Inc. is listed in at least two of the lawsuits as an additional defendant with Smith.
Another lawsuit filed against Smith lists Drc Framing, Inc. as a defendant. No records could be found for this business with the Secretary of State’s office records. One website, corporationwiki.com, lists Smith as the president of Drc Framing, Inc. During the preliminary hearing Turlock Police Detective Jason Tosta testified that during an interview Smith told him that numerous payroll checks from the restaurant had bounced and that he was “bleeding it dry” in an effort to save his framing company, which was struggling with the tanking housing market.
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.
On Jan. 26 and Jan. 30 of this year, 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.
Smith is due in court on Tuesday for a hearing related to the arson case. A jury trial is scheduled to start Feb. 21.
While the Red Steer in Turlock has remained closed, a new one owned by Smith has been operating in Modesto.
The Red Steer Facebook page claims a new Turlock location is in the works. A status update by the eatery on Jan. 11 says the company is “moving forward” on a location in the shopping center at 599 N. Golden State Blvd.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.