Chris Pettit’s gift to Antonian scrutinized in bankruptcy case

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In late 2016, two representatives from Antonian College Preparatory High School visited Christopher “Chris” Pettit at his San Antonio law office.

The couple, then-principal Tim Petersen and alumnus Charles Montemayor, detailed a capital campaign to fund improvements to the Catholic school in the hope that Pettit would pitch in.

While Pettit was not asked to give money during the visit, he later pledged to help fund the first phase of the campaign: the conversion of a building on the Castle Hills campus into a library, learning center and six classrooms. .

The school later named the building the Pettit Family Center of Academic Excellence. A plaque in the lobby reflects that the building was dedicated in honor of Pettit’s parents. Pettit and his three brothers graduated from Antonian.

Pettit’s promise — $500,000, according to a person familiar with her but who did not want to be identified — is under scrutiny in the former San Antonio attorney’s bankruptcy case as he faces allegations that he stole millions of dollars from former clients. Pettit reported about $40.5 million in assets and $112.2 million in liabilities for himself and his now-defunct law firm in the massive Chapter 11 case, but until now he has been unwilling or unable to explain where his money went. client.

An amended bankruptcy filing last month showed that Pettit contributed $225,000 to Antonian from 2019 to 2021. The pledge was spread out over several years, and it’s unclear how much, if any, remains unpaid.

Under bankruptcy law, a trustee can repossess assets on behalf of a bankrupt estate if they were fraudulently transferred within two years before the case was filed. State law extends that time to four years.

Mary Elizabeth Heard, a San Antonio attorney representing longtime Pettit clients who lost $2 million, said she hopes Chapter 11 trustee Eric Terry will reverse Pettit’s “fraudulent transfers so the money is safe.” available” to pay your creditors, including your customers.

“Although the bankruptcy code provides that some charitable contributions are exempt from being repaid to the bankruptcy estate, I do not believe those conditions exist in Mr. Pettit’s case with respect to the $225,000 contribution,” Heard said in a statement. email.

“Here, we don’t know if Chris Pettit has earned any legitimate income in the years leading up to filing for bankruptcy,” he added. “It is certainly possible that he used money from his clients to make charitable contributions on his behalf.”

San Antonio attorney Martin Seidler, who is also representing creditors in the case, agreed that the donation warrants review.

“If you give something away and you’re insolvent, that’s constructive fraud for creditors,” Seidler said.

Terry, his attorneys and forensic accountants have been investigating various transactions made by Pettit. Terry did not respond to a request for comment, so it could not be determined if the donation to Antonian is among them. His team has identified at least 149 bank accounts held by Pettit or his company and now wants funds and account information from many of them turned over.

The Pettit Family Center for Academic Excellence at Antonian College Preparatory High School opened its doors in 2017.

the archdiocese

Antonian Principal John Mein said he was not allowed to comment on the situation and directed questions to the Archdiocese of San Antonio. Antonian is an archdiocesan school.

“The archdiocese is obviously aware of what is happening with Mr. Pettit,” spokesman Jordan McMorrough said. “As for the name of the building… we are reviewing the situation on our end and are in the process of determining the next steps.”

McMorrough would not say whether that includes removing Pettit’s name. The amount of Pettit’s pledge was confidential, he said.

It’s unclear whether removing the name from the building would raise legal issues for the school or the archdiocese. But dropping the name creates a public relations headache for them given that Pettit has admitted he “misappropriated and dissipated” money from a trust account in at least one of about a dozen lawsuits filed against him and his firm. .

“That’s a dilemma,” said Montemayor, a 1984 Antonian graduate who visited Pettit about the capital campaign. “I thought the same thing as soon as the stories started coming out.”

The bankruptcy put on hold pending litigation against Pettit and his firm. The allegations in those complaints have triggered an FBI investigation.

Henry “Hank” Valdespino, president of the Antonian School Board, said there has been no discussion of Pettit by the board.

“It’s not set up how the school could make those decisions on its own,” he said of the decisions regarding the building’s name. “We have to pass all of that through the archdiocese.”

Former San Antonio attorney Christopher Pettit faces accusations that he stole tens of millions of dollars from his clients.

Former San Antonio attorney Christopher Pettit faces accusations that he stole tens of millions of dollars from his clients.

Jerry Lara, San Antonio Express-News/Staff Photographer

‘Happy to join’

Pettit, 55, graduated from Antonian in 1985. He followed in the footsteps of his brothers Jonathan, who graduated in 1978, and Martin, who graduated in 1982. His younger brother, Charles, graduated in 1991.

With the recent death of Charles, who had worked at Petitt’s law firm until it closed about two months ago, all three of Pettit’s brothers have passed away.

Work on the building named after Pettit’s parents began in 2016. The cost was estimated at $1.5 million, a filing with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation shows.

In his speech at the ribbon cutting and blessing of the 2017 building, Pettit recalled the visit of Petersen and Montemayor to talk about the campaign in the capital.

Principal Petersen “was bringing up the fact that he was looking for people to donate and help make a wonderful tribute to this school,” Pettit told the audience during the ceremony, which was recorded and posted on YouTube. “I was happy to join and do that.”

He added how “tremendously rewarding” it was for him to answer legal questions posed by former teachers who helped shape him as a student.

Montemayor, who has been an associate judge at Bexar County Children’s Court, recalled visiting Pettit in late 2016.

“I believed that he was, at that time, a person of great resources or potential,” Montemayor said. “And Mr. Petersen just asked me to update him on Antonian, just to tell him what’s going on at the school. And that was it.”

Montemayor was a year ahead of Pettit at Antonian, but they both graduated from St. Mary’s University School of Law in 1991. Montemayor’s wife also attended Antonian and prior to that, like Pettit, the Law School. St. Gregory the Great Catholic, Kindergarten through 8th grade.

“He was always courteous and very nice,” Montemayor said of Pettit. I know what happened to him. He hit me out of left field, to be honest with you. I don’t know the details of everything. But I have to admit I’m surprised by all of this.”

Pettit’s bankruptcy attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

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