Former Federal Way school board president Tony Moore — accused of scheming with a tire company employee in Oregon to steal more than $150,000 in semi-truck tires in 2011 — faced a jury in a courtroom that emitted a rubber odor on Monday at the Multnomah County Courthouse in Portland, Ore.
Moore sat at a table behind six large semi-truck tires that both the defense and prosecutor staged to illustrate the tires referenced in the case, while his wife Trisa and his sister sat on a bench behind him.
But before the attorneys presented their opening arguments, the trial began with a back-and-forth over whether two phone calls between Moore and his alleged co-conspirator would be admissible.
During the phone call, which the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office recorded without Moore’s consent, Tracy E. Holmquist told Moore the police were on to them and asked the then-school board president what they should do.
Moore instructed Holmquist to tell police that some large cash deposits they found that were made to Holmquist’s bank account were a result of selling cookies on eBay, amongst a host of other alleged concoctions that Dennis Shen, Multomah County deputy district attorney, would later describe during his opening argument.
Moore’s attorney Robert Callahan asked Judge Thomas M. Ryan to dismiss the case based on the phone calls, which he referred to as “outrageous government conduct.” He noted that while Oregon is a one-party consent state to phone recordings, in Washington all parties must give consent. Ryan denied the motion.
But Callahan later told the jury that there are two sides to every story — including the phone calls.
During the prosecutor’s opening argument, Shen described Moore’s business relationship with GCR Tire Centers in Portland.
Moore is owner of William A. Moore Jr. Inc., a family-owned tire wholesaler based in Federal Way. He salvaged used tires from the store’s junk pile and would retread the tires for his business.
Shen said Moore approached a company official in 2011 and asked if he could look through the company’s pile of unusable junk tires that did not meet GCR’s standards.
The official told Moore he was welcome to take tires for free that the company would not use, as long as he did so under the direction of Holmquist, the company’s yard manager.
“You’ve got to work through him, and only him, get his approval to remove those tires and don’t take advantage of the situation … ,” Shen said. “So the business relationship continued; he (Moore) sold tires, he bought a few tires, he took some tires. If that’s all that happened and it all went correctly, we wouldn’t be here today.”
Holmquist was later convicted on seven charges of aggravated theft and recently served 19 months in prison.
Shen said there were two events leading up to the phone calls that made GCR officials suspect the alleged theft.
One of GCR’s big customers Interstate Distributor Co. (IDC) stored its semi-truck tires at GCR’s Oregon plant “under lock and key,” Shen said.
But when IDC officials asked for an inventory check of its tires, a GCR official “went out into the yard and looked around and he knew where the tires were kept and to his amazement, instead of seeing a vehicle with thousands of anticipated tires, he saw about 200 — a huge decrease in the amount of IDC tires they should have,” Shen noted.
But GCR later got a “lucky break,” Shen said. While officials were figuring out the alleged theft, company sales representative Thomas Lalonde discovered six tires that didn’t belong in a tire shop in Phoenix, Oreg. Lalonde told detectives that these were GCR tires with a proprietary tread design that were used for test purposes only.
“It was not to be sold anywhere and he knew that they resided at GCR and were supposed to be at GCR,” Shen added.
He said at that point, GCR officials made the connection between Holmquist and Moore.
Holmquist, who initially denied his involvement, later told police that in March of 2011, Moore approached him in the tire yard at GCR and asked him if he wanted to make some extra money, Shen said.
“So the pattern of deception began in March of 2011,” Shen said.
Holmquist allegedly allowed Moore access to newer tires outside of the junk pile between March and October 2011. Holmquist would “roll tires and stage them, and load them into (Moore’s) trailer, who would then drive away …,” Shen said, noting the tires were inventory and not junk. “It was stuff that they would sell on their own or make it into retreads and sell for a lot of money.”
He noted that after Moore allegedly sold the tires, he deposited cash into Holmquist’s bank account.
“This happened over, and over, and over and over and over — dozens of times it happened,” Shen said.
Holmquist later agreed to cooperate with police and on Oct. 27, 2011 he made the first of two recorded phone calls to Moore. During the recorded conversation, Holmquist told Moore that the police were investigating the case and they had to get their story straight.
“And you’re going to hear this in its entirety and it’s very clear,” Shen told the jury about the recordings. “These are going to by crystal clear and not subject to interpretation.”
During the conversation, Moore told Holmquist, “Just tell them you sold me a TV for $3,100,” Shen said, noting Moore’s version of what happened “continued to morph many times.”
Moore then told Holmquist to tell police that he sold the TV for $6,700, “then it was, just tell the cops you got divorced, you got your ring back, it was a $9,000 ring, you sold it to me and I gave it to my wife. The value of the ring would change,” Shen said.
Moore also told Holmquist that there was no way police could trace the cash deposits that Moore allegedly made from Federal Way to Holmquist’s bank account.
Shen said Moore then abandoned his previous stories.
“He (Moore) said tell the police that you were getting rid of a lot of stuff on eBay, that he (Holmquist) and his girlfriend had been selling cookies on eBay … and he was selling a TV, a football, a sewing machine, his daughter’s bed and that he and his girlfriend are starting an eBay business and that explains all the deposits going into his account,” said Shen, noting that Holmquist didn’t have a girlfriend at the time and had never bought or sold anything on eBay.
Moore also told Holmquist he didn’t “even have to tell them (police) the money came from me and he also told Tracy Holmquist not to get too detailed because the details are what will kill you,” Shen continued.
During the second recorded phone call on Nov. 1, 2011, Holmquist told Moore that police knew about $10,000 in cash deposits to Holmquist’s bank account.
“The defendant said he should tell police that he was selling stuff on eBay,” Shen said. “He assured Tracy Holmquist that the cops could not bankrupt him and … that he should tell them that he doesn’t know anything. All you want to say is, ‘hey, I don’t remember what you’re talking about.’ Well, we know he’s wrong about the bank records because we have them and they show the defendant made the deposits into Tracy Holmquist’s account.”
During Callahan’s opening argument, he spent considerable time speaking about the tire industry, the secondary market for low-cost tires and Moore’s tire business.
“Many of these transactions in the secondary market are done in cash,” Callahan said. “You’ll hear from Delores Moore, Moore’s mother. You’ll hear that Mr. Moore is a third generation in his family tire business, that she (Delores) has worked for the entirety of the time since she married her husband as the bookkeeper. And she will tell you that nothing about this surprised her, that cash sales, cash reimbursement, cash happens all the time.”
Callahan also said that when Moore first began working with Holmquist at GCR, that Moore wasn’t charged anything for salvaging the junk tires.
“He believes that at some point, the people that worked there (GCR) saw that he was doing OK and so they started to charge him for the junk tires,” Callahan said. “They charged him $5 and then as things kept going they charged him a little more, they charged him $20.”
Callahan said that Moore tried to pay Holmquist with a check once, but Holmquist told him the company wanted the money in cash.
He said Moore knew that was the nature of the tire business.
“It wasn’t his business to ask what was going on, he just had a request, he understood that (the company) had made that request to Tracy Holmquist and he did business with him,” Callahan said.
He said the GCR official who initially noticed the tires were missing would often engage in conversation with Moore and Holmquist and watch them while they loaded the tires into Moore’s trailer. Moore took that as a sign that everything was “normal.”
Callahan added that while this activity occurred, the GCR plant “was in total chaos” and junk tires were mixed in with the usable inventory.
He also noted that Holmquist was addicted to heroin and methamphetamine during this time. Holmquist admitted to heroin use but denied using methamphetamine.
“As this all boils down, it’s all going to come down to one person’s word against another person’s word,” Callahan told the jury. “It’s going to come down to Tony Moore’s recollection of what happened, versus Tracy Holmquist’s recollection of what happened and I’d like to point out that there are two sides to this story and ask that you wait until the completion of all the evidence.”
Callahan did not say what Moore’s side of the story regarding the two phone calls was during his opening argument.
Moore did not immediately respond to the Mirror’s request for comment.
He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison if convicted.
Moore’s trial is expected to run through Thursday. The Mirror will update this story when more information becomes available.