by Karen E. Culp
AHP Inc., or Always Helping People Inc., responded to questions at a first meeting of creditors in its Chapter 7 bankruptcy case. The first meeting, held Sept. 18, will be carried over to the Oct. 16 court docket for its conclusion, said Thomas O'Neal, trustee in the case.
Officer of the corporation and sole shareholder Larry Holder said the direct sales and marketing company, organized as an S corporation, formed in 1981, and the company's headquarters had been at 910 W. Battlefield. The company sold distributorships as its means of selling the AHP products, air- and water-filtration systems, to the public.
Holder owns the lot and the building on Battlefield, which also leases space to Springfield's Best, a church, a limousine company, vitamin company Nutricare, and Conner Business Systems.
Holder Enterprises, a company formed by Holder to own and manage the property he holds, also leases space in the building. Holder has interest only in Nutricare, which started in January 1997, he said.
Two other companies are also projects of Holder's, though one of them, New Technologies, has "not yet come to pass," Holder said. Wealth Builders Inc., is a company Holder is working on now that teaches others how to invest in the real estate business.
That company has "no formal paperwork filed at this point," meaning it was not officially incorporated at the time of the creditors' meeting, though one creditor, Debbie Bingham, said she received "a letter about a new business called" Wealth Builders. Holder said that he was working on that company now, but to his knowledge it was not formally incorporated yet.
AHP has no secured creditors.
The company has $849 in office equipment, and $16,521.20 in inventory, in addition to $26,104.92 in accounts receivable. Those amounts, plus $4.50 in an Empire Bank account, make up its assets. There are a total of 252 unsecured creditors.
O'Neal questioned Holder about a meeting held in Memphis after the bankruptcy filing, asking whether the meeting was a recruitment meeting. Holder stated that the meeting was not a recruitment meeting, but was a training meeting.
"I have an obligation to train the people who are wanting to get involved with the company. This was a local training meeting," Holder said.
About seven to 12 people attended the meeting, which was conducted by people affiliated with AHP who live in Memphis and Arkansas, Holder said. The company maintains a list of active distributors, who "do business with us and with other companies," he said.
Those distributors can either buy goods from AHP or directly from the manufacturers who make them. Holder said it is no secret where the products are made or how to get in contact with those manufacturers.
"We provide our distributors with that information. It is no secret where the products come from," Holder said.
Bingham, and other creditors who were former distributors for the company, asked questions of Holder regarding the veracity of some of the company officials' statements about AHP. Bingham said she was led to believe the company was in sound financial condition and was therefore surprised by the bankruptcy.
"My question is, were we somehow not told the truth? Was this an attempt to defraud people?" Bingham said.
Holder responded that, as an independent contractor, Bingham had the right to work for whomever she pleased, and that no one was misled about the company.
Anne Schneider, assistant attorney general, asked questions on behalf of the state of Missouri and the attorney general's office. The state is a creditor in the AHP bankruptcy as a result of an agreement under an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, wherein AHP was required to pay a $20,000 penalty.
AHP was under the AVC as a result of some of its business practices, which the attorney general's office investigated.
Schneider also asked about Wealth Builders, which Holder said is now leasing space in the 910 W. Battlefield building. The company provides "seminar training for the real estate business," Holder said, and added that he is basically the only person involved, but he has some support from other people from Florida.
Though AHP owns no vehicles, Holder himself owns an airplane, which he has used for business purposes, he said. The plane is not listed as an asset in the bankruptcy case because it is not owned by AHP, he added.
Bingham expressed concern over whether she would be able to sell the products of AHP's she still holds.
"I feel like our products are no good now. They carry the AHP name and the AHP warranty," Bingham said.
Holste said that, prior to the bankruptcy, the attorney general's office had received 156 complaints about AHP, and that of those, almost all were from former distributors.
Fishing retail shop Modern Outdoor Tackle moved; Healthy Spot LLC opened; and Springfield law firm Strong, Garner & Bauer PC changed names and moved its office.