How KC's wealthiest enclaves became a shadowy nexus of predatory lending 

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Christopher Hodes and another brother, Billy Hodes, were primary investors in the south Plaza restaurant and bar the Beacon. It opened in 2012, and reports of unscrupulous business dealings had begun wafting from the place by the time it closed this past summer.

The Beacon served much of the community around Visitation Parish, located a couple of blocks away. Christopher and Billy Hodes are members of the parish; Christopher was on the school ministry team in 2011 and the administrative ministry team in 2012. The latter "advises the pastor and parish council in matters pertaining to the financial affairs of the parish," according to the Visitation website.

The Hodeses bought out the Beacon's principal partners in late 2012. When the brothers closed the place, former employees attest to being left high and dry. Carlos Williams, the former head chef at the Beacon, describes an environment in complete disarray.

"By the end, the liquor license had expired. We were on a do-not-deliver list with distributors," he says. "And they were withholding the money that's supposed to be sent to the courts for employees with child support. People's checks were being garnished because the money wasn't being sent where it was supposed to be sent."

Williams also notes that the Beacon's accounting was done through one of Christopher Hodes' businesses.

Whitten Pell, who created the concept for the Beacon, has a similar take: "Myself and many of the other investors found dealing with the Hodes brothers to be extremely unpleasant."

There are recent indications that the world of short-term online lending might soon undergo an implosion not unlike that of the Beacon. The federal government is flexing some muscle in both regulating the industry and prosecuting its especially bad apples. And some local payday outfits, once aligned, have begun to turn against one another.

Read part two of this story here.

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