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Highway6

Gallery Furniture burning

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I seriously doubt Mack did it to himself. I too have heard many people say that he can sometimes not be a very nice person, but that doesn't mean he would torch his own business, not to mention do it at a time when hundreds of people are inside.

And the Sugar Land postdates the fire - it was vacant a week ago until Mack found it as an emergency replacement, IIRC.

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While I have to admit fraud entered my mind, it seems so unlikely since it's the classic textbook insurance scam..

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Wealthy, powerful businessmen-- upstanding, philanthropic citizens-- have a demonstrated record of doing dangerous, destructive, criminal things that make no sense. People who understand arson well could probably recite a litany of all the ways arsonists are the people you'd swear couldn't be responsible.

I don't want him to be guilty of arson, but OTOH I have no reason to believe he is above the fray. That's not a conspiracy, it's merely a reasonable observation.

My friend at work sez it's that Hilton Furniture chainsaw guy. Hmmmmmm.

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Wealthy, powerful businessmen-- upstanding, philanthropic citizens-- have a demonstrated record of doing dangerous, destructive, criminal things that make no sense. People who understand arson well could probably recite a litany of all the ways arsonists are the people you'd swear couldn't be responsible.

I don't want him to be guilty of arson, but OTOH I have no reason to believe he is above the fray. That's not a conspiracy, it's merely a reasonable observation.

My friend at work sez it's that Hilton Furniture chainsaw guy. Hmmmmmm.

Nope, he would have cut it down.

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Nope, he would have cut it down.

I think it was the small Redhead gal from the Home Store. She looks the type.

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whatever happened to that Danish Inspirations guy? He always sounded odd and unpleasant. Hmmm. After all, the new Gallery Furniture was going high-end contemporary with the Kreiss stuff. :ph34r:

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Also, this was the warehouse that serves both locations. It's the resource for his "buy it t-day, you'll get it t-day" promise.

chron article said he is not promising same day delivery as of now.

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http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/6447579.html

"Jim McIngvale says he pays his school taxes, federal taxes and every other tax he can name.

But the owner of Gallery Furniture says he refuses to pay about $48,000 in taxes and penalties he owes a local management district, on principle.

Edited by crunchtastic

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While I have to admit fraud entered my mind, it seems so unlikely since it's the classic textbook insurance scam..

exactly.

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Story keeps getting better! What is this bogus taxing authority, though?

It's the Northside equivalent of the Greater East End Management District. At least, they both seem to have similar goals and programs in mind. It was created only a few years ago. According to its website, annual collections only total about $600,000.

Edited by TheNiche

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Wealthy, powerful businessmen-- upstanding, philanthropic citizens-- have a demonstrated record of doing dangerous, destructive, criminal things that make no sense. People who understand arson well could probably recite a litany of all the ways arsonists are the people you'd swear couldn't be responsible.

I don't want him to be guilty of arson, but OTOH I have no reason to believe he is above the fray. That's not a conspiracy, it's merely a reasonable observation.

Couldn't have said it better myself, Crunch. He is not above the fray. And let's not forget that 'upstanding, philanthropic citizens' may use their reputation to mask another agenda. All those donations Mac makes are tax deductible and he makes sure the media let's us know about it to maximize his popularity and image as a 'good guy.' None of his good deeds go unpublicized. As a marketing pro, the stories I've heard - especially from media friends and production companies who've shot his commercials - paint a totally different person. I'd say an over-sized ego supplemented by a big dose of meanness best describes the beloved Mac.

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Well, we shouldn't jump to conclusions. So what if Mac is a big jerk in real life? Just because he's a jerk doesn't mean he'd arson his own furniture warehouse. Besides, Mac would have to be awfully gutsy...or foolish...to set the building on the fire, collect insurance, and then wait until someone figures out what he's up to...then have his reputation, money, and life go up in flames, like the warehouse.

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I don't think he did it but it wouldn't be that surprising. He seems like a very strange person. He's obviously extremely wealthy but he has terrible taste. The homes he's lived in are really bizzare. There was a TV show that went on a tour of his old house a few years back. It looked like it was decorated by a lunatic. I half expected to see a milk crate coffee table like one of my friends had when I was in college. He obviously has the resources to have his house decorated. The fact that he lived like this seems like a level of cheapness that might border on mental illness. Also, I know he does things like this for publicity, but a purple Ferrari Testarossa? Princess Diana's jewels in a crappy furniture store on North 45? I also heard he lived in an apartment in the terrible neighborhood around his West End Tennis Club for a while recently.

He seems like the type of guy who will end up in a made for TV movie someday. Maybe not for this but for something.

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I don't think he did it but it wouldn't be that surprising. He seems like a very strange person. He's obviously extremely wealthy but he has terrible taste. The homes he's lived in are really bizzare. There was a TV show that went on a tour of his old house a few years back. It looked like it was decorated by a lunatic.

Two thoughts:

1. The ugly mural above the fireplace when he sold his house in 2007

2. The terrible taste of Bill List's mansion (and we all know what happened to him)

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Anyone else wondering what's going on with the investigation? It's been nearly a month.

flipper

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Not much in the news. From a couple days ago:

Gallery Furniture, which had its warehouse destroyed and showroom damaged in a fire on May 21, has commissioned an artist to make a sculpture from remnants of the warehouse.

The sculpture will be unveiled July 4, when the Top 100 retailer re-opens its store here.

The retailer announced plans for the sculpture June 22 on the online social network Twitter (under the user name MattressMack).

http://www.furnituretoday.com/article/2954...d_warehouse.php

...and:

The Houston Fire Marshall's office inspects buildings to make sure they are safe. Those reports are public information -- at least they are supposed to be.

However, the City Attorney's Office says it will not release prior inspection records at the Gallery Furniture building. It is also asking the State Attorney General's Office to step in and exempt the records from disclosure.

http://www.kvue.com/news/top/stories/06110...s.6d013b47.html

...and:

Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale held a press conference at Gallery Furniture’s original I-45 location on Thursday to talk about plans to rebuild after the fire that destroyed the store’s warehouse on May 21. Mentioning that Gallery Furniture is strong, stable and excited about the future, Mack said that the new store will be a “triumph of human spirit”.

To jumpstart the rebuilding process, Scott Margraves with W.M. Jones and Company and Liberty Mutual presented McIngvale with an advance check for $3 million on his insurance claim. Total damage is still being calculated but initial estimates have put the full amount between $15 and $25 million.

McIngvale stated that he is hoping to have portions of the showroom open by July 4 of this year and asked for Houstonians to give their suggestions on how to improve the new store. Suggestions can be made at www.galleryfurniture.com. He was quick to mention that while the new store is being rebuilt, Gallery Furniture is open and serving customers from its Galleria area location at Post Oak and Westheimer next to the Container Store.

http://www.furninfo.com/absolutenm/templat...articleid=10318

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They made an arrest. 

Joint Press Conference - Update on Gallery Furniture Fire

WHAT: The Houston Fire Department Fire and Arson Division and The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will give an update to the investigation of the May 21, 2009, Gallery Furniture Fire.

WHEN: Today, July 28, 2009 at 2:45p.m.

WHERE: HFD Logistics, 1205 Dart Street, 2nd Floor Command Room

DETAILS: The Gallery Furniture fire is one of the highest dollar loss fires that the HFD has investigated with an estimated loss of $18-20 Million.

The HFD Fire & Arson Investigation Division was the lead agency in this investigation and ATF assisted in this investigation. The Harris County District Attorneys Office also provided legal guidance during this investigation.

Through the hard work, diligence and cooperative efforts of Investigators from the Fire & Arson Investigation Division and Special Agents from ATF, First Degree Arson Charges have been filed on a former employee of Gallery Furniture. This former employee is in custody.

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Well, at least we know it wasn't Mattress Mack...

...unless, of course, it was a conspiracy. But it looks like it's not after all.

Edited by IronTiger

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From the first days of the official inquiry into the May 21 fire at Gallery Furniture, investigators focused on employees and particularly ex-employees as the likeliest cause of a four-alarm inferno that gutted a huge warehouse, burned up its contents, damaged furniture in a nearby showroom and caused losses upward of $15 million.

These suspicions apparently panned out Tuesday when Robert Caroll Gillham, a longtime former Gallery salesman, was charged with first-degree arson. It was not necessary to arrest the 66-year-old Gillham because he was already in Montgomery County Jail on unrelated charges.

“This was not just a good job — this was a great job in solving the fire,” said Houston Fire Department Chief Phil Boriskie. “Large fires are very difficult to solve because, quite frankly, they burn up a lot of evidence.”

Officials would not discuss details of the investigation or say precisely when they began to look closely at Gillham. It is clear that his name came up early in the investigation. He was immediately suspected by many Gallery employees who knew him, said a source close to the investigation, after he was fired two years ago for allegedly running a de facto loan sharking business for fellow employees who were down on their luck.

Within the last year, he tried to retaliate by asking two former co-workers to burn down the store or find someone who would be willing to do it for $3,000 to $4,000, according to court documents. They refused.

Finally, Gillham told his girlfriend he was going to do it himself, claiming he could get away with it because he knew where security cameras were located in the building.

The girlfriend, Paulette Ramos, told authorities that Gillham invited her over to his house on the night of the fire. He borrowed her car, a red Dodge Stratus, and left for about 45 minutes. When he returned, Gillham told her, “I'm OK, it's done,” according to the probable cause affidavit used to secure his arrest warrant. Ramos said that when she left Gillham's house that night, she smelled gasoline when she got in her car.

Two witnesses, both employees, told an investigator they had noticed a red four-door Dodge or Chrysler parked near the store's northeast exit shortly before the fire broke out. They saw a white male in a hooded sweatshirt come out of the door and get in the car. The man drove away so fast the tires squealed and he almost hit one of the workers, the witnesses said.

Earlier charges dismissed

Gillham had first attracted the attention of store owner Jim McIngvale in early 2007 when a Gallery employee reported his tires had been slashed and that he suspected Gillham, to whom he owed money.

A videotape from a security camera recorded Gillham bending down behind the employee's car, according to court records. Although only one tire was cut deep enough to damage it, court documents show that Gillham was suspected of slashing tires four times in 2006 — twice in August, once in September and once in October. Gillham was arrested on a charge of criminal mischief, but the case was dismissed in May 2007. His attorney in that case, Lisa Jones, said the video didn't prove her client slashed the tires.

Gillham, who had worked at the store since 1989, was fired on Feb. 7, 2007, when the tire-slashing incident brought the loan-sharking activities to light. A few months later, he showed up at the store and threatened an employee, according to a June 2007 request for a restraining order and permanent injunction filed by the company.

It claimed that Gillham created “a huge scene” and was asked to leave. A source close to the investigation said that Gillham had unsuccessfully tried to get his job back. The petition claimed that Gillham also had made threatening and harassing calls to Gallery employees and had sent “disturbing” e-mails to McIngvale.

There's more to that article, but I didn't quote all of it.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/hotstories/6550855.html

This guy was big trouble, whoever he was.

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The former Gallery Furniture employee accused of starting the spectacular four-alarm fire that caused $25 million in damage to the flagship store's warehouse made a jailhouse threat to kill store owner Jim McIngvale, prosecutors told a judge this morning.

News of the threat prompted state District Judge Mary Lou Keel to deny a request from Robert Gillham's attorneys to lower the 67-year-old's $500,000 bail to $50,000.

In court, prosecutor Steve Baldassano said Gillham told a family member visiting him in the Montgomery County jail that he was going to kill McIngvale, known for his commercials as “Mattress Mack.” The family member alerted authorities, Baldassano said.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/6660288.html

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Baaaad idea. Everybody knows that Mac and Chuck Norris are buddies...

I certainly didn't (or were you kidding?). Of course, I don't live in Houston, but Chuck Norris sightings are common* in College Station.

* common compared to the rest of the Internet, people there only talk about sightings, but residents have actually seen the mythical beast** wander the mall or eat at a restaurant.

** That should've been it quotes, as in "mythical beast". I'm not one of the Chuck Norris fanatics.

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