On May 17, 2012 the FBI released the following
SAVANNAH, GA—Hugo Diaz, aka Hugo Diaz de la Fuente, 45, of Evans, Georgia, was sentenced on Tuesday by United States District Court Judge J. Randal Hall to 15 months in prison based on Diaz’s earlier guilty plea to harboring illegal aliens for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain. Evidence presented at hearings in the case showed that illegal aliens worked for Diaz’s construction company, De La Fuente Contractors.
United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver said, “This United States Attorney’s Office will enforce the federal government’s immigration laws. Employers will be expected to comply with our nation’s immigration statutes and will face serious consequences when they do not.”
After Diaz serves his prison sentence, he will be transferred to immigration authorities for deportation proceedings because he is an illegal alien. In addition to his prison sentence, Diaz was ordered to forfeit millions of dollars of the proceeds of his crime, including real property, vehicles, and money seized from several bank accounts.
Diaz’s conviction arises out of a joint investigation by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations Division, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant United States Attorney David M. Stewart prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.
Diaz was quoted at sentencing as saying “America is a great country, it really is,” Diaz said. “I will keep it in my heart for the rest of my life.”
Last Friday May 2nd , Ray Carnes closed on the former home of Hugo Diaz. The much publicized house in Jones Creek was valued by the county at 1.7 million. By all accounts the purchase price was below the assessed value, but still in seven figures.
Saturday the Metro Spirit interviewed Carnes about his American Dream replacing the previous American Dream that had a vastly different ending. Augustan Carnes has built quite a business over the past few years and may be one of our area’s most successful young entrepreneurs you’ve never heard of. Although success has come quickly, the work involved was anything but.
“My best friend, we were roommates when we were younger. We had a real passion for grilling” Carnes begins. “Our thing was we would work and then Thursday, Friday and Saturday night all we would talk about is what we were going to experiment with on the grill. We were just passionate grillers. I was 18 years old at the time. My friends would always pick at me because I always had a very nice grill. I was always buying grills, buying grills, buying grills.
Around 26 I saw this technology existed and I had this idea I could make the best grill using wood pellets and a computer that would create something super versatile that would bake, smoke, sear, grill and dehydrate.
I had this idea in the back of my head kicking around for ten years or so.
At the time I owned a car lot on Davis Road called “Look N Call”, which was a concept that was really customer oriented. I put all the information on the car and if you were interested you would simply give me a call. No salesmen, low overhead, call me if you like it and I’ll come and meet you. Well, in 2008, one day you just couldn’t sell a car. The bottom literally dropped out.
I was sitting around asking myself ‘what are you going to do’. It’s funny how things work out. It’s difficult to make a big change when things are going great. Well, not necessarily great but I was paying my bills, playing golf a couple of times a week, so I couldn’t risk jumping off of that.”
Now with the economy in the tank and his car lot shuttered, Carnes decided to build the grill that didn’t exist.
“I’m going to build a grill that I can’t buy. A grill that is not available to consumers right now. Built like a tank, it’ll last forever, it’ll do all the things I want, nothing on it will be gimmicky.”
Carnes had noticed over the years the big boxes sold grills that looked beautiful on the outside but lacked on the inside. Built in obsolescence if you will.
“So I called my old roommate Ron Cundy, who now is a very prominent attorney in Atlanta. He’s used to me calling with crazy ideas and it was his job to poke holes in them. Well, I called him with the grill idea. I want it to be the ultimate grill, the best thing since sliced bread, and after a couple of days he called me back and said I’m in.”
This meant dumping everything they both had at the time into the project.
“Fortunately through my family I had contacts that could get it sourced and get it manufactured and all that. I hired engineers. I told them this is what I want to accomplish; this is what I want this thing to do. I don’t want this to break, I don’t want that to break, and this can never break. For example we use reinforced stainless steel for the pot kettle, marine grade stainless steel almost a quarter inch thick.”
While in the R&D phase, Carnes was not exactly contributing to the household expenses.
“I’m blessed with a wonderful wife. Beth, who I’ve been married to over fifteen years, has actually been the person that has made all this possible. I couldn’t have done without her. This is important. I went three years without a paycheck. There were nights I would come home at midnight and my wife would look at my face and ask ‘honey what’s wrong’ and I would literally bust out in tears, I literally cried. It was not an overnight success. It was tough to work till midnight without a paycheck. Beth picked up the slack and helped support my dream.”
As the days and weeks went by, the project began to take shape.
“We like to say we built the grill from a grillers perspective, not an accountant’s or engineer’s perspective. Engineers like to engineer things, put things on there that you really don’t need. So we fought for our vision. We actually went to twelve manufacturers. As a matter of fact when we had to let our eleventh manufacturer go it was a really sad day. I remember it because we were driving in my truck, my partner and I, and we knew it was going to set us back a year and a half before we could come to market with this decision. But we felt we were not in a race. It was more important to us to get this thing right. So ultimately our twelfth was the charm. They built this thing like a tank! The fit and finish was there, the exact quality we were looking for. So we went live to market.”
In a marketplace somewhat crowded, the RecTec team decided to stick to their core values.
“Our commitment was old school customer service. We just knew that in this day and age with computers that if someone writes something bad about you and your company it is with you forever. And if someone has an issue, we drop everything we are doing, including making more sales, to help the current customer. We decided we are going to make sure the customer is really appreciated. As a matter of fact, every person that has purchased one of our grills has both the owners’ cell phone numbers. That is unheard of! When the manufacture of a grill, the inventor of a product, gives you his cell phone number, that is pretty powerful. I get calls on the weekends for hamburger recipes! But we love it.”
It wasn’t long before business took off.
“We started selling these grills and people have told their neighbors, friends and family. We’re in all fifty states and Puerto Rico. The word has definitely spread.”
“The way the grill works is the computer monitors everything.
So you can set this grill for 225 degrees and let’s say you want to smoke a pork butt overnight. You set the computer at 225 and go to bed and the computer monitors the temperature and adds wood when it needs wood. Keeps it at almost exactly 225 degrees. It is so precise you may occasionally catch it at 224 or 226, but it is that precise. Let’s say it started raining in the middle of the night. The grill is equipped with smart technology that recognizes that something has changed and starts making adjustments to compensate for that. A PID, which stands for proportional-integral-derivative controller, the gold standard for temperature control, is what makes this possible. For example Anheuser-Busch, with all their resources, when they brew their beer they use PID temperature control.
My wife, who has never grilled, all of the sudden she is a griller. She treats the grill as an oven. You can crank it up to 425 for wood fired pizza, or if you want to smoke something you can drop the temp down. It features an LED screen like your microwave. You just press power and it powers up, then you press an up or down arrow to get the temperature you want and the computer takes care of it from there. The wood pellets are all natural, no binding agents or anything. It is the greenest grilling technology on the market today.
We were about a year into it and we realized that we knew and said this thing is going to take off. We realized we were onto something special. BBQ blogs were blowing up; people were winning competitions with it. Our phone just started ringing. We started stacking up to be able to support the volume. It grows every month because there are more of those salesmen out there for me.
The changes are your son can go to college; you have a little financial freedom. But it is expensive to grow when you grow as fast as we do. For example, the amount of grills we have sold each month, we have received twice as many because you have to be prepared for the growth. We have to have them in inventory. It is very expensive to sell one, and then replace it with two. For instance right now there are a thousand on the water headed our way.”
“It’s a unique property. There aren’t many pieces you can get in the Evans area on a golf course like this and of course being Augusta Georgia with the Masters, it’s a gorgeous piece of property. Its 11,550 square feet. I’ve been looking at it for quite some time, dreaming about it earlier and then realizing that maybe this could happen for us. Then I get a call from my realtor Greg Oldham with Meybohm Realtors. He said you need to be there in the morning and so there we were. I believe there were six bids on the property and low and behold we actually got it!
I was able to justify it because of the fact of the Augusta National and the Masters. It will be a premium property for a Masters Rental. I kept putting a pencil to it for what it would bring Masters week and I figured I can live in it for the same money as a lesser house because of the unique situation with the Augusta National.
The house has eight masters’ suites, each with its own bathroom. There are three floors and terraces, a home theater, beautiful bar on the first floor and amazing views. It was vandalized and the Feds had punched holes in the walls looking for things so we are in the process of making it livable.
It’s kind of surreal. It’s really amazing to walk through here and own something like this. The floors are all reclaimed wood. The Masters Suite is its own wing with a barreled ceiling that overlooks the number two green at Jones Creek. The shower has nine heads, plays music and is a steam shower as well. The attention to detail is just amazing, it sort of feels overwhelming right now.”
“I really don’t want to seem like I am bragging. I’m embarrassed really. I am from Augusta and that will never change. My friends that I’ve always had will never change. I have been fortunate, I have a group of friends that, some people are fortunate to have one best friend, I’ve got a group of about twenty five guys that we are all truly the best of friends. That will never change. I drive 2007 Tahoe that I paid $16,000 for. I could get a nicer car but it gets me where I’m going, I love it and there is no reason to buy something else. If it wasn’t for the Masters there is no way I would have bought something like this. I’m not one of these guys who are going to go out and buy fancy cars because I can. I’m pretty down to earth. Just very fortunate things have gone my way.”