For three months last year, Muhammet Atayev—California businessman and, by his own account, a former Turkmenistani cabinet minister—limited himself to a small universe in Dallas. He spent his nights in a room at a Best Western motel. In the morning, he slipped into business clothes, gathered his things and walked a one-mile stretch of sidewalk—past Denny's, under Stemmons Freeway and up Oak Lawn Avenue, arriving at a patch of grass behind an Exxon station.
Once there, he stayed from 9 to 5 each day, a sign hanging around his neck. He spent the balance of the steamy late summer on that corner, his humorless face glistening with sweat, though he never seemed to soak through his suits. He ate nothing during the day and drank only water.
He kept regular business hours, never missing a day.
The sign summed up his purpose simply. Addressed to Mr. Joseph Ashmore, Mr. Jack Wilemon and Mr. Allan Clark, it asked: "Where is our money??? I will be on a hunger strike until I die or get the money."
The money never came. A $250,000 investment—a handshake deal that he claims was supposed to return $25 million in just three months—had left Atayev with nothing but a stack of old emails and a pile of sweaty shirts.
But a strange thing happened as he stood there: People started to stop, sharing with Atayev stories of other can't-miss investments from the last few years that all went back to the men whose names were scrawled on his sign.
In fact, as lawsuits, disciplinary hearings and federal investigations detail, there were dozens more people whose money ended up in bank accounts under Ashmore's name, for investment partnerships with Clark and Wilemon.
In 1975, [Ashmore] began his tenure as judge in Dallas County Probate Court No. 3. He spent 11 years on the bench, handling contested wills and other delicate rulings. He earned glowing reviews—97 percent approval in one Dallas Bar Association poll—and became an expert on mental illness policy.
When he left the bench, Ashmore started a private law practice, handling probate claims and other issues and growing the firm to include a handful of lawyers, including his son Gary Ashmore and daughter Lori Ashmore Peters. The firm's office is just a few short blocks down Maple from his father's laundry business.
A handful of probate lawyers declined to talk about Ashmore, but receptionists at their firms jumped at the chance to gush what a good friend he is. A good ol' boy who can hold his own in Dallas' finest circles, Ashmore speaks some Spanish and Arabic, and his English carries a deep Texas drawl. He's known to conduct business in his suite at Lone Star Park, where he likes to watch the horses.
So it's understandable how the invocation of Ashmore's name could lend credibility to the too-good-to-be-true deals to which his name has so often been attached.
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Investors Trust Judge Joe Ashmore but his Trust Doesn't Pay Back