Items belonging to Brigham Young University assistant communications professor John R. Maestas were sold at a public auction Tuesday; the items were the first to be confiscated and sold in execution of a default judgment against him.
The breach-of-contract lawsuit was brought against Maestas by the Andean Children's Foundation, a Salt Lake-based charitable organization that provides assistance to underdeveloped rural areas in Third World countries, particularly in the Andes Mountain range in Peru.The Andean Children's Foundation hired Maestas in September 1986 as a fund-raiser. An 18-month contract between the organization and Maestas stipulated that $10,000 given to Maestas for travel and printing expenses would be returned to the organization if Maestas was unable to raise any funds.
Foundation Chairman Tim Evans, a Salt Lake dentist, said Maestas was hired after a representative attended a fund-raising seminar in Cedar City taught by Maestas. Evans said the organization had minor contact with Maestas during the first six months covered by the contract and that Maestas indicated he was busy working and following leads.
However, following that period, Evans said attempts to contact Maestas went unanswered, including inquiries from the foundation's attorney. The foundation received no money from fund-raising efforts by Maestas and filed a lawsuit in 1987 against him to recover the $10,000 in seed money, plus interest.
A 3rd District judge executed a default judgment in the case, said the foundation's attorney. The judge's order permitted the sale of non-exempt property belonging to Maestas.
Tuesday's sale of a Mercedes Benz, a horse, saddle and rifle belonging to Maestas raised $1,400, which will be turned over to the foundation.
"I'm not so sure he had intentionally tried to con us," Evans said. "I think he got into it (the fund-raising) over his head. I (just) want him to talk to me. He's cooking his own goose simply because he refuses to talk to me. As it is, we are having to confiscate his personal property and sell it, which is valued at much more."
The Deseret News was unable to reach Maestas for comment.
BYU spokesman Paul Richards said the university has been conducting an investigation into alleged problems concerning Maestas.
"Because of the nature of being a private university, I can't discuss the nature or scope of the investigation," Richards said.
Richards said Maestas is still employed by the university and that the investigation is being handled through the academic vice president's office.
"The investigation is more an academic investigation concerning the alleged problems," Richards said. "They are conducting it like a justice system, where a person is innocent until proven guilty."
Richards said if the allegations being investigated turned out to be true, BYU would take action.
"It is not a BYU matter unless the allegations have foundation in fact," Richards said. "Because we're looking into the matter, it is not a foregone conclusion that something is wrong."