Dr. Aniceto Gauzon, a specialist in emergency room care at Washington Hospital Center and a man regarded by his colleagues as something of a financial whiz, walked into a Hospital Center bathroom, threaded a telephone cord through an air vent, and hanged himself.
That unpublicized suicide happened more than two years ago. But the story of Dr. Gauzon's death is one of the strangest in the tale of General Financial Services (GFS), a Washington-area company whose subsidiaries specialized in pension planning and organization real estate partnerships.
The characters include a white-haired, grandfatherly man who once helped found a Maryland bank but now claims to be broke, a Filipino accountant who steered many clients into bad investments, and two groups of partners, mostly doctors, who all lost money.
The grandfatherly man is John Stauch, a Ph.D. clinical pathologist whose laboratories did blood work and other tests for area doctors. Stauch is also listed in state banking records as one of the founders in 1966 of the United Bank and Trust Co. of Maryland, a small bank with several branches in southern Prince George's and Charles countries.
In September, 1967, according to Prince George's County records, Stauch and another man organized a limited partnership to buy property and construct and operate an office building.
The history of that partnership and its building at 5001 Silver Hill Rd. in Suitland is tortuous, marked with occasional changes in membership and increasing calls in the investors to come up with more money to keep the project afloat.
Documents in the tangle of [WORD ILLEGIBLE] surrounding the Suitland [WORD ILLEGIBLE] show, for example, that [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Placido, a Marlow Height [WORD ILLEGIBLE] made an original contribution partnership of $13,000, and over the years paid additional assessments totaling $36,734.
Dr. Toshi Tsurumaki, a Hillcrest Heights physician, made an original investment of 6,250 and by April 1976, had put more than $25,000 in the building to keep the project alive.
There were also a $135,000 loan from United Bank and Trust Co. to Dr. Stauch that some of the original partners cosigned to keep the project going, they testified. One of the cosigners, John S. Bednarik, is listed as a director of the bank, and another Dr. Placido, has been a member of the bank's advisory board.
The note is in default and a long court battle about who pays was recently concluded.
At any rate, by the time the Suitland building was completed some years after schedule, there had been a "falling out of partners," as Stauch put it in an interview. Stauch was authorized to find a buyer and he did: Realty Equities Corporation, a subsidiary of General Financial Services.
But no money was distributed to the original partners when the property changed hands and some of them sued almost immediately after the sale, charging that Stauch had disposed of the building at an unfavourable price.
Stauch is no longer an offiver or stockholder with United Bank and has been listed as a defendant in Price George's Circuit Court in at least 10 lawsuits seeking settlement of unpaid bills.
While the previous owners were suing Stauch, Harry Ruddy and David Woody of GFS were organizing a partnership to own the land on which the Suitland building rests. They kept the building themselves, for a while.
Karl Lass, who runs Lass Dental Laboratories, Inc., in downtown Washington, invested on behalf of his lab's pension fund. "It looked like a guaranteed investment," he said. "They told me there was no way we could lose unless the building went bankrupt."
That, of course, is precisely what happened.
It is not known exactly how much was collected - and lost - by Dr. Stauch's partnership, and the same is true of the two partnerships organized by GFS after it acquired the building. The total losses mount well into six figures, however, according to several estimates.
But there was one winner: Dioscoro Poblacion.
Everybody calls him "Mr. Pobs." A native of the Phillipines, he was an employee of the Philippine Embassy here. He studied accounting and worked briefly as an agent for the Internal Revenue Service, but was dismissed, he told the Securities and Exchanged Commission, when he was discovered moonlighting as a shoe salesman.
He is listed in Virginia corporate records in Richmond as the president of P&L Business Services, Inc.; as a director of Physicians Financial Service, Inc., and as a director of Pobs Limited. In the D.C. Recorder of Deeds office, Mr. Pobs appears as the president of Physicians Management, Inc.
The offives of Physicians Management, Inc.
The offices of Physicians Management, Inc., if appearances are to be believed, are located in an inoperative, refrigerated walk-in food locker in the back of a nondescript food store on Telegraph Road, just south of the Capital Beltway in Fairfax County. Right there, pasted on the locker door in reflecting tape, are the words, "Physicians Management, Inc."
Poblacion refused to be interviewed. "I can't give you any comment," he said in a brief telephone conversation. He has not been at home in Manassas or at any of his various offices on numerous ocassions.
However, he has had an opportunity to talk to Securities and Exchange Commission investigators at least three different times in connection with at least three apparently unrelated investigations, including the one surrounding General Financial Services. The SEC has not filed any complaints against him.
"Mr. Pobs" is very well connected with a community of Phillippine-born physicians who practice in the United States, according to sources. He has arranged for some of the doctors to incorporate themselves for tax purposes, and on occasion, has suggested to his accounting clients that they could use a tax shelter, he told the SEC.
Two doctors have told The Washington Post independently that they invested a total of more than $40,000 in a real estate venture south of Alexandria after it was introduced to them by Poblacion. The promoters of that venture have apparently disappeared. So has the money.
One of Poblacion's fellow Filipinos and business associates was Dr. Aniceto Gauzon, the man who hang himself.
Poblacion and Gauzon organized Physicians Management Corp. in 1974 to handle such administrative services for doctors as billing and processing insurance forms, according to the corporate charter.
At some point they met the GFS principals, Harry Ruddy and David Woody. They were hired by GFS specifically to round up investors for a partnership that would own the Suitland building, according to testimony before the SEC.
Poblacion moved his offices into the Suitland Building, took over the book-keeping chores for that partnership and installed a relative of his as janitor.
For finding investors and other services, he told the SEC, he recieved about $40,000.
But while Mr. Pobs was doing well, his partner Dr. Gauzon was not. "Gauzon was supposed to be a financial whiz," one doctor said in an interview. "We all went to him for advice."
It is not known how may different ventures Gauzon was involved in. His widoe and their children have left the area and could not be located. They reportedly have returned to the Philippines.
But anothr of Gauzon's business partners was Dr. James Head, now the directors of the emergency department at Washington Hospital Center.
At the time of Gauzon's suicide, Drs. Head and Gauzon owned a company that was providing emergency room services on a contractual basis to the Hospital Center. "We were having some financial trouble with that," Dr. Head said, "although it appeared to be taking a turn for the better."
At the same time, according to several sources, some of the investors Dr. Gauzon had steered into the Suitland building and other various investments were beginning to take losses and he was hearing about it.