Pickleball swindler ordered into bankruptcy

BROOKVILLE, Ind. — They came from near and far, from Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, Kansas and around Indiana to be in federal bankruptcy court in downtown Indianapolis. Their stated purpose was to stop Rodney Grubbs.

The court proceeding was to decide if Grubbs should be forced into Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The stories were terribly similar.

Eight witnesses testified they met Rodney Grubbs through pickleball, usually at tournaments. Grubbs’ pickleball equipment and apparel business impressed them. Later, Grubbs would befriend them, and eventually ask if they wanted to invest in his business.

With promises of a 12 percent or higher annual return on investment, they handed over thousands. All of them said Grubbs never paid back interest or principle on the loans.

For each, the losses totaled in the thousands.

Attorney Matthew Foster, who filed the bankruptcy petition on behalf of a group of seven creditors, said there are many more owed money. Foster says losses are in the “millions of dollars.”

FOX59/CBS4 has previously reported Grubbs already faced a trio of civil court judgments and a cease-and-desist order from state regulators. To execute the loans, Grubbs had been issuing promissory notes without a state license.

In court this morning, Grubbs functioned as his own attorney but did not contest any of the testimony, did not challenge evidence and did not cross-examine witnesses. Instead, he made repeated pleas to let his business, Pickleball Rocks, continue to operate under the belief that in the long term revenue from sales could provide more money.

Grubbs even acknowledged that someone else would need to be brought in to run the company but predicted with continued growth in the popularity of the sport, it could generate a million dollars a year in sales.

Bankruptcy Court Judge Robyn Moberly was not convinced.

When Grubbs repeated his plea for the continued operation of Pickleball Rocks, Moberly cut him off and said, “Maybe you could sell ice cream to an Eskimo, but that isn’t what’s happening here today. I’m not buying your sales pitch. And I think folks (who) have already bought it, regret it.”

Moberly then ordered Grubbs into bankruptcy.

FOX59/CBS4 caught up with Grubbs outside the courthouse where he agreed to answer questions.

We noted several witnesses had identified Grubbs are their friend. So, we asked Grubbs how he could take advantage of people with whom he had forged relationships.

“Here’s a thing. You know everybody wants to scream I’ve done this to my friends. But I can sit here and look you in the eye and tell you that never did I ever take anybody’s money, that I didn’t believe that I was going to be able to pay it back, at some point in time.”

The bankruptcy process now moves to a search and an accounting of Grubbs’ assets. They include 11 low-income residential rental properties in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. Grubbs’ other identified asset is his business.

Those assets will eventually be sold, creating a pool of money and divided up among his creditors. Foster concedes unless substantial unknown assets are discovered, people owed money may end up with pennies on the dollar.

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