Monday, December 12, 2011

The Wiles of the DNA - The Adventures of the Texas 'Park Girl'

Customers allege ‘Park Girl' has wreaked havoc on their lives
December 11, 2011 10:33 PM
By EMMA PEREZ-TREVINO, The Brownsville Herald
Just 10 years ago, “The Park Girl” was a service advisor at a car dealership in California.

Former beauty queen Joleigh Conway had $35 in the bank at the time, federal court records reflect. She jointly filed for bankruptcy in the United States Eastern District of California in the early 2000s with her then-husband Scott A. Conway.

“The Park Girl” — as she calls herself — is now known as Jo Leigh Ares or JoLeigh Ares or Jo L. Ares, after another ex-husband, Jonathon Ares of Meridian, Idaho, or JoLeigh Stephenson, by her maiden name.

The tall blonde 36-year-old woman also has lived in the Rio Grande Valley, Kerrville, Arlington and San Antonio.

Her mother lived in Kerrville and her father, who has extensive property holdings in Cameron County, lived in Donna in the early 1990s.

She has been living in Palm Valley.

Ares has been doing business as the Park Girl in the Rio Grande Valley for roughly four years, a Brownsville Herald investigation shows.

Now, some of her customers allege she has wreaked havoc on their lives.

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid represents 43 residents throughout the Rio Grande Valley in a civil lawsuit that they filed in the state 444th District Court that alleges Ares and her La Feria-based Park Girl Mobile Home Sales defrauded them.

TRLA alleges that many of the clients never received their home, were never given the title to the property, or were provided with property that was in dire need of repairs, and carried previous debts, including taxes and mortgage liens.

State District Judge David Sanchez on Dec. 5 issued a temporary restraining order against Ares, her business and others preventing them from evicting or foreclosing on the affected customers and from shutting off their utilities.

TRLA alleges that some residents have been left homeless or in fear of foreclosure, and that there could be more than 65 families who might have been victimized. TRLA estimates that Park Girl has received, at a minimum, approximately $600,000 in down payments from these families alone.

TRLA attorney Raul Noriega said that concerns about Park Girl Mobile Homes began in late October after many customers began to accuse the company of theft and fraud.


Customers began to complain to the La Feria Police Department and to Pct. 7 Constable Cesar Rene Diaz’s office in late October.

On Oct. 25, Ares called the Palm Valley Police Department to her home in Palm Valley. An officer arrived at 5:26 a.m. in reference to criminal mischief. The officer contacted Jonathon Ares who said that his former wife’s Mercedes E320 had been damaged.

Palm Valley Police Chief Alvaro Garcia told The Brownsville Herald that the car, registered to Ares’ former husband, had been shot at three times. The bullets struck the trunk of the car that was parked on the driveway.

Police officers were not able to recover the slugs. Ares said that some of the car’s wiring had been damaged and that she would take it to a shop.

Garcia said the gunshots had come from a handgun.

This was the first time that police had ever been called to her residence. No other incident reports are on file.

Garcia recalled that she said that the bullet holes had not been there at 10 p.m. Oct. 24.

She didn’t appear nervous, but claimed that she felt threatened because she had a legal dispute with her father.

Neither she, her ex-husband nor neighbors heard gunshots. No one reported hearing gunshots or anything out of the ordinary.

Given her increasing legal troubles, Garcia said Thursday that, “we haven’t been able to follow up. Hopefully she sticks around. We would like to talk to her.”

“There are some questions,” Garcia said of the gunshot incident.

She left town two days after reporting the gunshot incident.

On Oct. 26, Park Girl customer Rosa Capetillo filed a report with the Pct. 7 Constable’s Office. Two other reports alleging theft and fraud against Ares were filed Nov. 1.

About four other reports also were filed with the La Feria Police Department.

At least four warrants were initially issued for her arrest on theft charges. There could be as many as nine warrants already, Sgt. Rudy Delgado, an investigator for the Pct. 7 Constable’s Office, estimated Friday.

It was Delgado who learned that Ares had flown to California in late October. Her ex-husband had driven the Mercedes to Idaho, according to Delgado.

Talking on the phone with Ares in early November when arrest warrants already had been issued against her, Delgado asked her if she was going to turn herself in or if he had to go get her.

He also heard some words in the background, indicating to Delgado that she was planning to take another flight.

The suspected destination was Boise, Idaho. Delgado contacted a U.S. marshal who alerted a federal air marshal in California.

The air marshal took the flight with an unsuspecting Ares from California to Boise. Other marshals awaited in Boise. They also had already spotted her ex-husband who was waiting for her at the airport. She was arrested Nov. 2.

Boise authorities, however, released her on a $10,000 fugitive bond. She didn’t return to face the charges.

It would not be until about a month later that she turned herself in to the Hondo Police Department on Nov. 30 at about 4 a.m., arriving in high heels.

“She thought that she would be able to continue on the fugitive bond,” Delgado suspects.

The Hondo Police Department let her go, telling her that she could return later. She did return and Delgado traveled to Hondo that day to bring her back to Cameron County.

She was arraigned Dec. 1 and jailed on a $1.2 million bond on four theft charges. The bond was reduced to $200,000 and she was released Dec. 6 on an attorney-surety bond.

The cases against her have not been presented to a Cameron County grand jury to date.

Her attorney, Noe Robles, did not respond to a request for comment.

Another attorney, Stan Hulse of San Antonio who has represented Ares on other matters, also did not respond to a request for comment.


Delgado, the Constable’s Office investigator, told The Brownsville Herald that Ares’ employees told him that Ares asked them to find out where she could buy a gun.

Delgado said that after the shooting incident with the car he called Ares’ ex-husband Jonathon Ares in Idaho and had a talk with him on the telephone.

Delgado said that Ares’ ex-husband told him that on Oct. 25, he went with Ares to several stores to buy a gun, but that he had not been able to buy a gun because he has an out-of-state driver’s license.

According to Delgado, Ares’ ex-husband told him they went to a pawnshop in the McAllen-Edinburg area and that she had been able to buy a 9 mm black semi-automatic handgun.

Delgado said he asked Ares’ ex-husband if he had shot at the Mercedes.

According to Delgado, Ares’ ex-husband laughed a bit and said “‘I didn’t do it. That is all I can tell you’.”

Delgado suspects that Ares used the shooting incident as an excuse to leave town.

The Brownsville Herald contacted Ares’ former husband in Meridian, Idaho, by telephone Friday.

“I really can’t comment. Her case is pending,” he told the Herald when asked about the gun and Ares’ situation. He added that when he comments, it tends to get him in trouble.

The Herald has not been able to contact Ares.


Ares also is involved in numerous other cases in courts in Cameron County besides the civil lawsuit that her customers filed against her, her business and others.

Ares filed two civil cases in Cameron County Court at Law 2 against two customers in September last year. Both cases were dismissed due to lack of jurisdiction, according to the court record.

The state of Texas also filed a family law case on her behalf in June 2010 in the state 444th District Court against her ex-husband from Idaho.

Several parties also have filed lawsuits against her and her business.

Anna Montero filed a lawsuit against Park Girl Sales in August 2010.

And in May this year, the Atlantic Casualty Insurance Company obtained a default judgment against Ares, doing business as Knock Out Repairs, in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas.

The court found that the insurance company had no duty to defend or indemnify Ares for claims and damages arising from the death of Angel Montero Castillo.

The court record reflects that Ares subcontracted a transportation company to transport, install and level mobile homes.

The transportation company in turn subcontracted a third party to set up and level a mobile home. Montero was employed by the third party and he died when a mobile home he was setting up fell off of a jack.

In other lawsuits, ARC Dynamic LLC filed a lawsuit Dec. 2 against her and her business in the state 107th District Court. Another lawsuit was filed Dec. 3 against her and Park Girl Sales by Green Tree Servicing LLC in the state 107th District Court.

Matt’s Cash & Carry Building Materials Inc., also filed a lawsuit against Park Girl Sales in the Cameron County Court at Law 1 in August.


“Si Se Puede!”

This translates to, “It can be done!”

And for people with no credit or bad credit or no Social Security numbers, the Park Girl’s ad enticed, bringing for many the opportunity to share in the American Dream.

“Bad Credit? It’s Ok! No SS# It’s Ok!” the firm’s website notes.

“Nowhere does it say that the rough spots in life should keep you from having the home of your dreams,” The Park Girl Mobile Home Sales website states.

“We make it easy!” it adds.

The website boasts that as of March 2011, “The Park Girl has helped over 125 families JUST LIKE YOU . . . to own a home of their dreams!”

“Come see us today . . . and let us take you home. . . Si Se Puede!”

The Park Girl touted the full package: financing, new or used mobile homes, remodeling, furniture, air systems, transportation and sites.

Ares operated under a stream of businesses as gleaned from state public records.

She is listed as either the registered agent or officer of the All Valley Mobile Home Park in La Feria, AJ’s Rent A Car Inc., Joleigh Ares LLC, Park Girl Sales, Kenla Mobile Home Park in La Feria, Park Girl Property Management LLC, San Benito Garden Park Mobile Homes, Knock Out Repairs LLC, Rio Grande Bubba, LLC, South Texas Bubba, LLC, La Feria Loan LLC, South Texas Vista Verde Park, Park Girl Trucking, South Texas Se Levant Park, Knick Out Repairs, Lindell, and First Act Marketing Inc.

She also is listed as the owner of 11 properties in Cameron County at Palmas Verdes Court, in Brownsville, several mobile homes in La Feria, and land in Santa Rosa and La Feria, according to Cameron Appraisal District records.

Noriega, the TRLA attorney, alleges that as a result of Park Girl Mobile Homes’ activities, “we have families who have nowhere to live or are in fear that they will lose their home because they trusted the wrong person. Their stories are devastating.”

An elderly couple gave Ares $7,000 as a down payment for a mobile home, according to the court record.

They were able to gather the money they needed for the down payment by selling a prior mobile home they had and by selling their cemetery plot, according to the court record.


Jo Leigh Stephenson was active in modeling since she was 12 years old, according to 1993 articles in the Kerrville Daily Times.

She entered her first beauty pageant at 14, the articles state. Titles to her credit were Miss Winter Wonderland, Queen of Queens Winter Wonderland, Raymondville; Borderfest Queen, Hidalgo; Princess of Orange Blossom and Queen Citriana, Mission.

The 1993 articles also noted that she is a graduate of Jonay’s Modeling School of Harlingen, and Vivian Harmon School of Modeling in McAllen.

She also choreographed and modeled in many fashion shows for businesses and organizations.

The articles said that she served on the fashion panel for Valle Vista Mall in Harlingen. She was accepted in 1993 to the Miss Teen pageant in San Antonio.

She attended Tivy High School in Kerrville where she was a member of the National Honor Society, the Principal’s Team and vice president for the Tivy DECA Chapter.

At the time, she worked part-time at Mr. Gatti’s Pizza in Kerrville.

An acquaintance from California recalled Friday that she was a “head turner.”

“She could turn on the charm and make you think you were God,” he added.


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