Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Jay Rand Story (Or the Loose Cannon Story)

                                                            The Jay Rand Story
                                                 A true story about a real “Loose Cannon”                                           
                                          Written 1/2010 and rewritten 03/01/2016 unedited                                                                                                                              
                                                                   Howard Yasgar

       If I had to list the top 10 of the most interesting people that I have ever met and been involved with, it would be very difficult to do, because I have been fortunate or perhaps unfortunate enough to have met and been involved with quite a few interesting people.
      My involvement with Jay Rand became for me an unfortunate and a costly experience, and what was even worse, was that I could have lost my entire business by being involved with him.
      To just say Jay Rand was interesting would be an understatement, to call him a loose cannon would be more like it. It didn’t matter whatever direction Jay went in, someone was left behind with a big problem.
      But other than being a loose cannon, Jay was a pretty likeable guy, and I don’t think he ever really intended to hurt anyone by doing all the screwy things he did. He became the kind of guy you really could write a book about, or at least a story about him, so I’m choosing to write a short story regarding some of the things that I got involved in, with Jay.
       It was 1988 when I first met a fellow named Jay Curtis, I was just getting involved in the business of rebuilding military parts in Miami.
       At the time, I didn’t know a whole lot about the military business, nor did I know the details about how the U.S. government’s procurement system operated, so I was learning every day from everyone that I dealt with.
       In 1988 my company was already very proficient in the rebuilding commercial electrical parts and I was looking into other markets, and that was the main reason I started to think about rebuilding military electrical parts. I felt it was the right direction for my company to go, as it might be less competitive than doing commercial type automotive business.
       I soon learned, that the U.S. military purchased all their parts, under very strict guidelines, and for us to find parts to rebuild military electrical was a very specialized business, you needed to deal with people that specialized in military parts, so that’s how I first met Jay Curtis, who was located in Cleveland Ohio. He was in the carbon brush making business which also included many surplus military items like carbon brush kits.
      Jay was a highly intelligent fellow with an engineering background, so I started buying carbon brushes from him and over a period of time, we became good friends.
      According to Jay, he had been married to a woman whose father had owned a company called Benjamin Sales. Benjamin Sales had also dealt in carbon brushes. So when Jay divorced, he remained in the carbon brush business naming his company in Cleveland, the International Graphite Company.
      Jay, because of his engineering background was able to manufacture carbon brushes for every application. He could copy and just about make any type of carbon brush. Not only could he manufacture any type of carbon item, but he could design the machines that were needed to do it.
       By the time I met Jay Curtis, he and his wife were already divorced, but Jay had continued running the carbon brush business, formerly Benjamin Sales, which he had now named International Graphite.
       It was in 1988, when I first established a relationship with Jay, and started doing business with his company, and because I was new in the military parts business, I was really happy to meet someone intelligent that I could talk to about most any mechanical or engineering subject, and actually get the intelligent answers I was looking for.
       I could talk to Jay Curtis about any technical project, that we were doing and he was always free with good solid engineering information.
      Our relationship eventually got to the point, where Jay and I would discuss many different things,
Some, which were not related to the carbon brush business.
      Jay told me he was writing a book about a special aircraft that was made during WW II, it was an aircraft designed with a gold plated interior.
      Jay said that after the war, all of the gold plated planes were given to Russia by the U.S., except for one plane that had crashed into the Great Lakes. The story about those gold plated aircraft was going to be the subject of a novel Jay was writing.
       Unexpectedly, in 1990, Jay Curtis told me that he had sold his brush making business in Cleveland.
       When Jay had told me this, I was taken by surprise, Jay said, everything in his inventory was sold to the Ohio Carbon Company located in Nova Michigan, and Jay was now going to be a partner with them.
       Jay said his new partner was a fellow named Lee Reineke, who owned the carbon company in Nova, Michigan, and several months later I met Lee Reineke, when he came to Florida on a business trip and he stopped by to meet me.
       I found Lee to be another super intelligent expert in the carbon brush business, and Lee told me the story about how he had started out in the carbon brush manufacturing business. He said, he had been traveling around the country, calling on customers like big steel mills and large manufacturers. He said that his business was selling them carbon brushes for the electric motors they used to run their machinery.
      What had made Lee smarter than everyone else in the business was that while he was at the steel mills, he purchased their left over scrap carbon electrodes. The electrodes were left over scrap “Stubs” from their electric arc melting furnaces, and the carbon stubs were considered junk by the steel mills.
       Lee bought all the junk carbon electrode stub pieces, and then cut them up to make carbon brushes for the electric motor brushes that he was selling to them, it was a brilliant idea.  
       After talking to Lee, I thought that the melding of the companies, having two people like Lee and Jay Curtis, was going to be a pretty good thing.
       At the time though, I had no idea that there was a whole other reason why Jay Curtis sold his company to the Ohio Carbon Co.
       It was probably in the late 1990's that I learned that my good friend Jay Curtiss, the former owner of International Graphite had suddenly disappeared.
       Lee Reineke, Jay’s new partner in the Ohio Carbon Company, several years later told me the whole sad story.
       It seems that Jay Curtiss, under the name of International Graphite, had taken an order from the
U.S. government for a large quantity of carbon brushes. They were brushes that were originally made by the Westinghouse Electric Company.
      Then over a period of several months, Jay had made 8 shipments of brushes to the government, and at some point, the government found out that the brushes Jay sold them were not original carbon brushes from Westinghouse.
      It was most likely, that Westinghouse had monitored the sale that Jay made, and then protested to the government. Once the protest was lodged, an investigation had probably taken place, and it turns out that my good friend Jay Curtis was charged with 8 counts of mail fraud for making 8 shipments of bogus Westinghouse carbon brushes to the government.
      My friend Jay Curtis was eventually prosecuted and convicted, but Just before Jay was scheduled to be sentenced to jail, he disappeared.
      When Jay disappeared, I didn’t know the reason, so at the time, that appeared to be the end of the story, as far as I was concerned.
      After about 2 years had passed, I had long forgotten about my friend Jay, and that’s when he called me on the phone, and asked if I could help him out?
      Jay said he was calling me from the Bahamas, and he said he was hiding there from his ex-wife.
      When I received the call, I had forgotten about ever hearing from Jay again.
      So, when Jay called, I was pretty surprised and I thought of him just as an old friend, and he possibly needed my assistance in hiding from his ex wife.
      Jay said that he wanted me to help him to get some information on how to legally change his name.
      I had seen several publications available in the classified section of a Soldier of Fortune magazine, and I thought perhaps that would be exactly what Jay needed.
      I sent $19.00 ordering several books that covered subjects on how to change your name and how to lose yourself in society if you didn’t want to be found.
      Jay gave me a general delivery Post Office address in Marsh Harbor, Bahamas, and I sent him the books.
      About 6 months later I received another call from Jay Curtis, who was now calling himself Jay Rand.
      Jay Rand, said he was temporarily living in a sailboat behind Nova University in Fort Lauderdale, and he said he wanted to get together with my wife and I for supper.
      My wife Katherine and I went to meet him, and found Jay living on a 27 foot sailboat, docked in the private boat basin right behind Nova University, and that evening, Jay then told us a very unusual story.
     He said that two years earlier, he had, driven his car from Cleveland Ohio, to Miami Florida, and once he was in Miami, he found a 16 foot boat with a small outboard engine for sale.
      He bought the boat, and then went to a local hardware store and bought everything he thought he and his dog would need for an extended outdoor camping trip. That included extra gas, and an ocean chart of Miami and the Bahamas.
      Jay said that he had never been to the Bahamas before, and didn’t know how to get there, so he depended on a small compass and a boating chart he had bought.
      Then Jay said he loaded up the boat with his dog and the supplies, abandoned his car and set off for the Bahamas, and somehow arriving at the port of Nassau the next day.
      Jay knew he couldn’t enter the Bahamas without a passport, so he veered to the right side of the island, and continued around the coast, skirting what looked like the populated areas. Jay said that he was looking for someplace that looked a bit more secluded.
      Finally he found a small opening that led into a bay and it appeared to be pretty much uninhabited, but as he got closer to shore, he saw there was a nice house on his left that appeared to be inhabited but it was all closed up. Directly in front of him, he saw that there was an abandoned homestead, and as he got closer, he saw that the house was indeed abandoned, so Jay just moved in.
      Jay said, that he fished the bay, and caught sharks for him and the dog to eat. He also dove for lobsters, and then he found an old orchard in the woods behind the house, that still produced some fruit on the trees.
      One day Jay saw someone living at the other house on the bay, he said he was nervous, but he went over and introduced himself. The people turned out to be an older couple from the States that spent part of the year in the Bahamas, and they were happy to have a new American neighbor to talk to.
      Jay must have given them a good story as they befriended him, and as they had a generator and water maker, they now supplied Jay with all his fresh drinking water.
      Jay said that he spent most of his day time hours foraging for food and writing his book about the gold plated airplanes, which he just knew would eventually be a best seller. He said that he already had a publishers name in mind, one that he would send the book to when it was done. Jay was confident that publishing the book was going to be a sure thing.
      After several months, Jay said that he started to miss the taste of fresh vegetables, like onions and tomatoes, and lots of small things that we all take for granted, so Jay took a chance and left the bay, and motored to the next peninsula of land, where he saw there was a dock.
      At the dock, he tied up the boat and walked along a dirt road, which eventually led to a small village that he said was called Cooperstown, where they told him that a bus came twice a day and it could take him to the next biggest town that had a post office, a phone and a grocery store where he could buy some vegetables. I thought Jay had said the town was called Marsh Harbor.
      Jay made the trip to Marsh Harbor and found all the vegetables and supplies he needed, as well as a public telephone, which he had used to call me.
      Jay said that after a year, one morning, he awoke to a surprise, there was whole bunch of guys there with electronic equipment, camping on the shore of his little bay, so he went to see who they were, and he found a group of marine research professors from Nova University. They told him they were doing a research project regarding wave action in a Bahamian bay.
      Jay soon made friends with all of them and he hung around their campsite every day, soon the professors began to refer to Jay as the mayor of the bay.
      One of the professors told Jay that he had a 27 foot sailboat that he wanted to sell, so Jay agreed to buy it, and the next time the professors came, he sailed the boat over.
      It had now been nearly 2 years since Jay had left the states and his source of funds was drying up.
      His partner Lee, back in Michigan, had had more than enough of Jay and his expenses, and didn’t want anything more to do with financing him.
      It appears that Jay had been living off the money due to him by Ohio Carbon, for buying his company, but that was now at an end, so Jay then decided to sail to Fort Lauderdale with the 27 foot sailboat, and the professor got him permission to dock in the Nova University boat basin.
      While at the Nova University boat basin, Jay found a lady that could edit the manuscript for his book. He also met a really nice girlfriend, she was a technician working for a laboratory at the university, and Jay soon moved in with her, and his life started to normalize.
      But his girlfriend’s brother, didn't like the fact that his sister and Jay were not legally married, so they asked me, as a Florida Notary Public, to perform a wedding ceremony for them, and using my wife Katherine as a witness, we performed a nice wedding ceremony at her brother’s home.
      Jay, while he was living in the Bahamas, had seen how the Bahamian’s harvested lobster, and he wanted me to go in business with him to farm raise lobster. Then Jay said he had seen Bahamian lobstermen throwing lobster heads away. Jay said that if you grind up the lobster heads it was the best fish attracting chum he had ever seen, so I tried it and Jay was right.
      As much as I wanted to assist Jay with all the idea’s he presented me with, I couldn’t, I was just too busy with my own company and my own projects, so I had no time to devote to his schemes, regardless of how interesting they were.
      Now Jay had access to the library at Nova University and he found the library was a virtual gold mine, loaded with studies done by various professors did to get government grants. So now whenever Jay found a potential project that some professor had done a study on, he wanted to do it, and he wanted me to do it with him.  
      Next, Jay informed me that he and his new wife had found a project boat in a Fort Lauderdale boat yard and they were going to buy it. When we went to see it, we couldn’t believe our eyes. It was a very old wooden twin mast wooden sailing yacht, 60 feet long, it was probably built in the 1950’s and the ageing boat was now up on blocks in dry dock. The original boat had started out many years ago as a fancy private yacht, with a stand up piano in the salon, the piano now long gone.
      When the original wealthy owner had died, the boat was sold, and the new owners made it a sailing charter boat, until the diesel engine quit on them.
     Then to save money, the engine was changed from a 6 cylinder diesel, to a 4 cylinder diesel engine, and then when the four cylinder engine failed, so did the owners, and the wooden yacht was pulled out of the water before it sank and now it just sat in the marina yard deteriorating.
     The marina, had acquired the boat for overdue fees, and put it up for sale for $35,000.00.
     Jay, using his new wives money, caulked the boats hull and moved the yacht to the boat basin behind Nova University.
      By the time Katherine and I came for a visit and boarded the yacht, Jay had already started working on it, and he had set up a workshop in the boats bow.
     The entire situation looked like a hopeless project to us, and we thought that Jay had bitten off more than he could ever do, but it appeared that nothing was going to deter Jay, he was determined to fix up the yacht. And he kept at it even after his wife told him that she got seasick at just the mention of water.
      For a while Jay stopped coming around, he was spending all his time working on the boat. As the months passed, we could see Jay was making a junk yard out of the Nova University boat basin, and we wondered how long they would let him stay there.
     Watching Jay operate, we were starting to feel that perhaps his thinking was a little unbalanced, but he was such a nice guy.
     One day Jay came into my office, he had a government surplus catalog with him and he showed me where there was a big load of marine boat bottom paint coming up for sale at a government surplus auction, the sale was to be in Jacksonville Florida.
      Because my company was already registered with the government, Jay wanted to know if he could use our registration number to bid on the paint. He said that if he was awarded the paint, he could sell all of it very quickly in the Bahamas.
      I looked over the government booklet Jay had and I noticed that there was also being auctioned about 1000 pounds of lubricating grease. I thought that as long as Jay was bidding on the paint, he could also bid on the grease for me. So I told Jay to bid $100.00 on the grease.
      When the winning bids were published, Jay did not get the bottom paint, someone had bid more than he had. But we were awarded the 1000 lb lot of grease, for our bid price of $100.00.
      Jay said that he wanted to go to Jacksonville to review some marine items that were being auctioned off, so he said, it would not really cost us hardly anything for him to pick up the grease at the same time as he was going to be in Jacksonville anyway.
       Against my better judgment I said he could do it, and he used our credit card to rent a small U-Haul truck to make the trip. I had a bad feeling about the whole thing, and I didn’t like getting involved in renting a truck.
     The next afternoon I received a call from Jay who was in Jacksonville, he said he had our grease and was just getting on the road, but he would not be in Miami until after 6 PM, could I please wait for at the office for him.
      At 6 PM, Jay called again and said it would be about another hour, and he asked if I could open up our warehouse across the street so we could unload the truck and he could return it to the rental company that evening.
      I was already very tired from a very long day of work, when Jay finally showed up at 7 in the evening.
      When Jay backed up the rental truck into the warehouse, it was not the small truck he had left Miami with, it was a bigger 20 foot U-Haul truck and when he opened it up, it was filled to capacity.
      The truck was loaded with grease and adhesives of every size and description, some of it already leaking on the trucks floor.
      Needless to say, I had a pretty terrible argument with Jay that evening.
      Jay said he had used my companies name and registration number to bid on two term contracts.
The contracts were to remove all the out of date lubricants and adhesives from the navy base at Jacksonville Florida for one year, he had used my name and bidders number, and he had done this without my permission.
      All of the material he brought back in the truck was out of date, and it labeled as such, some of the adhesives were already leaking and some were so old that they were getting hard. I saw the whole thing as possibly an environmental nightmare for my company.
     This was a serious situation, the government was being very smart, instead of paying to have all the grease and adhesives removed to a special HAZMAT dump site at great expense, they avoided the costs by looking for some sucker to buy all of it. That sucker was Jay, and worst of all, he had used our companies name and registration number to buy it.      
      It was a hazardous materials nightmare, if we were caught with this stuff either by the EPA or the Miami fire department, they would close our company down and make us remove everything to a HAZMAT dump site.
      None of this was Jay’s problem. It was now my problem. I was responsible, as everything was in my name, so now on top of my regular business, I had this to deal with.
      Jay started making weekly trips to Jacksonville to pick up more material. Before very long, Jay had our 4000 square foot warehouse filled up with hazardous material, and he was now piling up pallet loads of 5 gallon cans of grease and adhesives in our outdoor storage yard, and all of it was at my company expense.
       Leaking adhesives were now everywhere, some was on the ground, and I saw some coagulating into a pink jelly mass our drainage system.  
       Jay, now, was a man completely out of control, he was absolutely a loose cannon, and I personally had little time to try and get rid of all the hazardous crap he was bringing in. because I had my own business to run.
       At the time we were doing a lot of export business, so I tried to encourage all our export customers to buy Jay’s hazardous material, and some did.
      We had cases and cases of super glue in military packaging and RTV silicone in tubes, but all of it had expiration dates, so it didn't take long before the customers started calling me from overseas with complaints. They said that some of the adhesives were already hard when they received it, and they said that anyone who could read English saw the expiration label and had already started returning it.
      To me now, it became a double nightmare as I had to return most of their money, and they also had paid freight and duty.
      Now I started calling every type of customer I could think of to get rid of the stuff, and I eventually found a ship chandler company in downtown Miami that was interested in selling the stuff to the commercial shipping industry.
      Jay and I went to meet them, and I learned about a whole new business that I never knew existed.
      Vessels coming into the port of Miami, would fax or radio the ship chandler to order their supplies. The ships would contact the chandler when they were several miles offshore, and it was the ship chandler’s job to have the supplies ready to load on board the ship, all this done while the ship was unloaded its cargo at the Miami docks.
      The ship chandler’s supplied everything from food to typewriters and tools, and they supplied lots of grease and adhesives as well.
      The ship chandlers absolutely fell in love with Jay, so I encouraged them to become Jay’s partner. It appeared that they knew nothing about the “HAZMAT” problems associated with lubricants and adhesives, I could see they were just thinking of all the money they could make selling the stuff to the ships.
      I offered to give them my excess shelving for free, just so Jay could put stock in their warehouse, and the ship chandlers went for it, and the next week Jay moved about 20 percent of our inventory of grease and adhesives to the ship chandler’s warehouse, he even set up an office in their building.
       Every day I saw Jay, I kept pushing him to take more stuff to the ship chandler, and Jay did bring them lots of lubricants and adhesives, but he was still bringing it in from Jacksonville quicker then we could find ways of disposing of any of it.
      Jay's relationship with the ship chandler's lasted about 4 months, that’s how long it took for them to realize that Jay was a loose cannon, and they kicked him out of their building.
      Fortunately for him, Jay had already found another sucker, that had an even bigger warehouse than the ship chandler, and he immediately moved in with the new fellow.
      Jay said the new fellow dealt in damaged food goods. I felt it was a dangerous move for Jay to put lubricants and adhesives in a warehouse with food goods, but I also was getting desperate to get rid of the stuff. When no one was looking, I started to throw all the hardened adhesives in the trash little by little, and I started giving away for free anything still good that anyone would take.
      Fortunately for us, more than a year passed, and we never had an EPA inspector, or fire inspector visit us, we were very lucky.
      After a year, the term contract at Jacksonville ended, and Jay stopped coming by, but I was left with about 200 pails of grease, as well as a lot of other material.
     I couldn’t believe it, but we eventually sold all the grease to a neighbor business called, Douglas Freight Salvage, they had an export customer and they sold it all to him. They didn’t know it, but I was ready to give it to them for free.
     By the time I disposed of the last of the grease, it appeared Jay was no longer involved with the damaged food goods dealer. The fellow had already kicked Jay out, and when they parted company, I lost my new aluminum dock ramp which Jay had borrowed and never returned to me.
      I should have been mad at Jay, but I was so happy just to not have him around.
      The next I heard from Jay was when he had finished the final manuscript of his book, and he said he was going to send it to the publisher. We were very happy for Jay, as we thought he could become a famous author, so he gave me a signed copy of the manuscript. Unfortunately the book was never published.     
      After that we kind of lost track of Jay, until he came by one day and said that he had gotten involved with a Marina in Fort Lauderdale, he was building hydraulic systems on yachts for them, and he said he was still working on repairing the wooden sailing yacht in the basin behind Nova University.
     Jay never acted as if he had done anything wrong to us, and he continued stopping by every now and then to purchase from our marine division.
     When I finally thought I wouldn’t ever be involved with Jay again, he came to me with another deal. I really didn’t want to hear it, but I listened anyway.
     The Government was going to auction off four very big all aluminum hydrofoil boats. The boats had been used for drug interdiction in Key West, and not only were they really big, and all made out of aluminum, but each boat had several big “Detroit Diesel” engines on them.
      Some of the Detroit engines rotated the huge fans that lifted the boats off the water, and then there were several big engines that propelled the boats forward.
      Jay, had already estimated that he could cut up the boats for scrap in Fort Lauderdale, and the scrap aluminum would bring in $17,000.00, each.
      Jay wanted to get us involved, the reason being he felt that our company could finance the deal and easily sell all the diesel engines. He said that the boats were going to be auctioned in Key West.
      Even though I wasn’t excited about getting involved with Jay, My wife and I thought driving to the auction in Key West would be like a vacation, so we agreed that we would all go to the auction and bid up to $10,000.00 each to buy the boats.
     So Katherine, Jay and I drove to Key West the morning of the auction. We arrived fairly early and went on board the hydrofoil boats to inspect them.
     Just as Jay had said they were very big, and they were all built of solid aluminum, but we found that the boats had already been stripped of all the electronics and they would have to be towed, if we bought them, and that was an additional cost that Jay had not anticipated.
     The more I looked over the boats, the more I realized that I was getting in to something that was going to be a whole lot more difficult than Jay had said. It was like I was getting into the same problem I had with Jay regarding the grease and adhesives. I felt like I was getting into a headache all over again.  
     But luck was with us, there were about 8 people at the auction and before I knew what was going on, a representative of Textron Corp of Texas offered $40,000.00 per boat and I never got to raise my hand and bid, thank god. I left the auction a happy man, having bought nothing.
      Jay kept in touch over the next year, and he said he was working with a wealthy Canadian that had a construction business in Nassau, the Bahamas.
      One day Jay came by and showed me another government auction sales booklet that described a radar station and building complex located on an island in the Bahamas. The U.S. Government was auctioning off the entire radar facility and Jay and his Canadian friend were going to bid on it, did I want to get involved, no, I said I wasn’t interested in being a partner and living on an island.
      I mentioned to Jay that in our warehouse, we found that we still had two 55 gallon drums of Hysol Epoxy. It had been formerly used to hold the heat resistant tiles on the space shuttle. It was the last of the adhesives Jay had brought from Jacksonville.
      Jay said that his Canadian friend had a LST landing craft that was presently in Miami and he could use the epoxy to make a new floor. I was hoping that Jay was telling the truth and not going to dump the epoxy somewhere in the shallow waters of the Bahamas, where it could be found and traced back to me.
      In July of 1992, Jay invited us out for supper with him and his wife. At the restaurant, Jay said that he had found a not quite finished houseboat, and his wife was going to move into it. Jay was at it again, the houseboat sounded like another surplus deal where his poor wife would be living in an unfinished boat, located on the water, which she hated. We thought the loose cannon was at it again.
      But after listening more to Jay, it appeared to us that Jay and his wife were preparing to separate by mutual agreement, even though neither of them had said it. It appeared that Jay’s wife had had enough.
      We were right, a few weeks later Jay told me he was leaving for Nassau where his Canadian friend had a contract to dredge the harbor between Paradise Island and mainland of Nassau, Jay said that he was going to run the dredge, so we wished Jay the best of luck.
      Over the next 18 years, I often wondered what happened to Jay, but I was not so curious as to try and find out, as every time I got involved with him it was a costly experience.
      Around January of 2010 I received a phone call from the Bahamas, the call was from someone I didn't know. He said he was calling on behalf of a Canadian man that was in jail in Nassau, and requested that I be of assistance. I declined to be of assistance, as I was very sure it was not something I should get involved in.
      Then I received another call from someone else, and he said that “your friend” Mr. Jay Rand, an Australian Citizen, had not renewed his temporary visitors visa and was being held in custody.
       I told the man that unfortunately as a U.S. Government Contractor, I could not even entertain the conversation, and I have heard nothing since.
       I certainly felt bad, but there really was nothing I could do for Jay, as I am sure it was just a matter of time before the Bahamian immigration would check his fingerprints, and find out who he really was.
       I really hope Jay is OK, but frankly I had already had enough.


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