• FOX13 Investigates: Refurban awarded state grant despite owing city and county taxes

    By: Kirstin Garriss

    Updated:

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. - A Memphis-based recycling company is still under fire after FOX13 discovered the company owed thousands in delinquent taxes.

    Refurban Memphis, LLC was awarded a state grant last March and the grant contract did not require a match from a local government, but the company asked for county tax dollars anyway.

    RELATED: Lawsuit claims 50,000 tires dumped illegally on site during Memphis tire redemption program

    The grant from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to Refurban Memphis, LLC was for truck sales. The contract is worth $15,948 from the state with Refurban coming up with an additional $15,947. 


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    A spokesperson for the department said Refurban hasn’t received any funding because the company didn’t submit the necessary paperwork in time and missed a series of timeframes listed in the contract. 

    But the grant was awarded when the company still owed its 2017 taxes to the city and county. The spokesperson said the application process doesn’t require the grantee to submit its local tax payment history. 

    “Ultimately, we’re talking about tax dollars that we worked really hard for and we’re giving them to this company and they’re not even meeting their basic criteria of paying their taxes on time, and that’s really problematic from our perspective,” said Mark Cunningham with the Beacon Center of Tennessee. 

    Beacon Center of Tennessee is an independent nonprofit advocating for more transparency over government spending because of situations just like this one.

    “If you’re getting any money from the government, you should at least be up to date in your taxes and that’s very fair and if you’re not, then you should be disqualified from even applying for one of these grants,” said Cunningham.

    Shelby County Commissioner Mick Wright said the board learned a big lesson form this experience. 

    “It makes me realize that we need to slow down and go through our regular vetting process for everything we do, we need to be keeping these add-on items to an absolute minimum so we can send these resolutions through our normal vetting process,” said Wright. 

    Devin James is the founder of Refurban and his attorney said James was addressing his tax troubles.

    “He talked with me about having to pay some taxes and maybe he did so the other day, but it wasn’t pertinent to my matter so I’m just repeating what I heard,” said Joe Barton, James’ attorney for a separate matter.

    But when FOX13 checked city and county tax records, it shows Refurban still owes more than $42,000 in back taxes from 2017 and 2018.

    FOX13’s Kirstin Garriss called James using the number listed on Refurban’s website but instead of hearing from James, the umber belongs to a woman who lives in St. Louis. The woman told FOX13 she had no idea her number was being used for this company. 

    FOX13 stopped by Refurban’s warehouse on Florida Street and no one answered. 

    On Monday, Wright said the board will vote to use some county dollars to help the city remove all these tires. 

    A city spokesperson said they’re waiting to get permission from the property owner Shraddha Saburi Samidha, or SSS – not Refurban – to gain access to this land so they can start the removal process.

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