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SQRL Chaos: Suspicious Transactions Cloud C-Stores Ownership

4 min read

Allegations of forgery and fraud have joined the escalating chaos surrounding Joseph Blake Smith’s troubled SQRL convenience store chain.

On paper, two projects once listed on the Little Rock venture’s roster of outlets were sold in tandem $4.6 million deals in February. However, the transactions involving stores at 6205 Hwy. 5 in Bryant and 709 E. Fordyce St. in England are tainted, according to court records.

The controversy is the latest in a growing string of legal disputes surrounding Smith and entities and properties associated with his SQRL endeavors. The action includes efforts by creditors to drag SQRL Holdings into bankruptcy court through an involuntary Chapter 7.

Files Development LLC, led by Timothy Files, claims the sales of the Bryant and England properties are fraudulent. He made the allegations in separate but similar June 25 filings in Saline County Circuit Court and Lonoke County Circuit Court.

Files denies executing the deeds and alleges his signature is forged along with the signature of Mariah Bozarth, whose public notary stamp wrongly authenticates his signature.

Files Development alleges that Carrie Draper, transaction coordinator with SQRL Holdings, used Bozarth’s notary stamp and forged Bozarth’s signature on the real estate documents associated with both properties.

Timothy Files claims his signature as the manager of Files Development LLC on Feb. 29 was forged on the $4.6 million sale of the Gassy’s convenience store at 6205 Hwy. 5 in Bryant. The signature does differ from the one, lower left, that appears on the project’s $3.2 million mortgage dated Feb. 3 held by First Service Bank of Greenbrier. The controversial deed wasn’t filed of record until April 24 or apparently cleared through a title company. The would-be buyer, Cameron SQRL-Bryant LLC, was led to believe the property was leased by SQRL Service Stations. Files alleges that his company alone owns, operates and occupies the property.

According to Files Development, real estate documents related to the transactions were drafted, executed and notarized without its knowledge or authorization.

Files Development claims it has not conveyed, and has never had any intent to convey, any interest in the properties to Cameron SQRL-Bryant LLC and Cameron SQRL-England LLC. The limited liability companies are affiliates of Cameron Prop Fund Manager LLC, Cameron Property Co. LLC and Madison Capital Group, all based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Files and Joe Teague Jr., president and COO of Madison Capital, couldn’t be reached for comment.

On paper, the Bryant project sold on Feb. 27 and the England project sold on Feb. 29. Both deeds were recorded on April 22 with the respective circuit clerk’s office in Saline and Lonoke counties.

Files Development became aware of the transactions after the two Cameron entities began pursuing legal action on May 15 to evict and take possession of the properties from the alleged tenant: SQRL Service Stations LLC.

However, Files Development claims it owns, operates and occupies the properties. These days, the Bryant convenience store does business under the Gassy’s name. According to a “coming soon” banner, the Gassy’s name is on the way to the former SQRL store in England.

Unlike many SQRL locations, the Bryant and England C-stores are well-stocked and fully operational. While Cameron’s position in the ownership picture of these projects is under a cloud, Files Development’s is less so.

(George Waldon)

Files Development purchased the 2-acre England development on May 23, 2023, for $3.4 million from Standard Development Co. LLC, led by Smith and his namesake irrevocable trust.

The deal was backed with a 20-year loan of $3.1 million from Stone Bank of Mountain View. The mortgage creates another problem for Cameron to establish a clear title to the property.

That financial encumbrance remains in place and would’ve been noted in a title search; however, that apparently didn’t happen before the tainted deed was recorded. The same applies for a $3.2 million construction loan that Files Development obtained in February 2023 to build the Bryant project. Held by Greenbrier’s First Service Bank, the mortgage remains in place after a one-year renewal.

Files Development took ownership of the nearly 1.5-acre Bryant site in December 2022.

That’s when ownership was transferred with no consideration from the Nevada-domiciled version of Standard Development Co. LLC, led by Smith and Files. The now-revoked LLC purchased the land for $600,000 in March 2022 from Outdoor Management Displays LLC, led by William K. Smith.

According to real estate records, Cameron’s involvement with the Bryant and England projects dates back to Dec. 29, 2023. The properties were part of master lease agreements among a series of master leases between SQRL Service Stations as tenant and 30 different Cameron LLCs as landlord.

Starting annual rent was $418,500 for the Bryant project and $441,750 for England. Both properties were covered by 20-year leases with a 2% annual escalation.

In all, the master lease agreements covered 30 convenience stores scattered across Florida, Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Monthly lease payments were to begin whenever Cameron bought a property.

Cameron launched legal action on May 14 to evict SQRL Service Stations and take possession of two other Arkansas projects at 1030 Hwy. 65N in Conway and 7209 E. Grand Ave. in Lonsdale (Garland County).

SQRL Service Stations has made no lease payments on either property since April, according to Cameron’s complaints filed in circuit courts in Faulkner and Garland counties.

The annual rents on the 20-year lease agreements were $328,500 in Conway and $536,570 in Lonsdale.

On July 1, Cameron-SQRL Lonsdale LLC landed a default judgment against SQRL Service Stations. According to the master lease agreements, the leases are guaranteed by Joseph Blake Smith’s Standard Development Co. LLC and SQRL Holdings LLC.

Cameron bought the Conway project for $3.6 million in January and the Lonsdale project for $5.6 million in February.

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