El Paso politics never disappoint with whisper campaigns and political operatives trying to outdo themselves. Although Democrats generally prevail in the city’s elections, the Republicans also have their own political power plays. Case in point is the County Commissioners race for Precinct 4 on the Republican ticket. Vying to challenge incumbent Carl Robinson, should he prevail today, or challengers Sergio Coronado or Dorothy “Sissy” Byrd on the Democrat side are Republicans Blanca Trout, David Adams, David Fatuch and Victor Navarrete III. Two of the four Republican candidates, Blanca Trout and David Adams have attracted unwanted attention.

Originally Blanca Trout was planning to run as a Democrat for County Commissioner Precinct 4. Trout subsequently announced as a Republican candidate. Trout is a longtime Republican. The other candidate that is facing controversy is David Adams.

On February 2, 2022, Jaime Abeytia, who helps run political whisper campaigns through his blog, posted that David Adams “stole $80,000”. After Abeytia’s post we received a link to the blog and several emails with copies of a purported letter that alleges David Adams stole $80,000 from the El Maida Shrine. Although the letters seemed to be official El Maida Shrine documents, there is something off about them. Note that we used the plural letters, because there are at least two versions of the letter making the allegation.

Did David Adams Steal Charity Money?

After we received three copies of the letter from three different individuals suggesting that we investigate the matter, we decided to try and authenticate the letters. The reason was that the letters did not seem to be official. Although bearing the El Maida Shrine brand, it looked like the letters were doctored.

Of the letters we received, we discovered two versions of the letter. One was the one published by Abeytia and the second letter, although similar, was in fact different.

As readers can observe, the letter published by Abeytia alleges that Adams stole $80,000. The second letter alleges that Adams stole $40,000. Our copy of the letter includes a signature and what appears to be stickers referring to two different entities, the “El Maida Shriners” and “Shriners International”.

We emailed the two email addresses in the letters asking for confirmation. Both of our emails were returned as invalid email addresses.

At this point, we felt that the letters were doctored making them unreliable. However, several readers insisted the story was true and asked as to continue investigating. As part of our due diligence, we sent David Adams an email yesterday asking him to comment on the letters. Adams called us back in the afternoon yesterday and we interviewed him this morning.

David Adams Responds To Our Questions

In our telephone interview this morning, Adams denied the allegations. Adams told us that it is “all lies”. When asked specifically if he had stolen money from the Shriners, Adams said it was “all false”. He added that he “never stole anything” and that “no charges were filed”. Adams added that the letters “were forged”.

Adams asked us to contact the Grand Lodge of Texas and speak to the Grand Secretary. When we called this morning, we were transferred to Justin who told us that only the Lodge could confirm the authenticity of the letters. Justin added that they have no control over letters sent by the Lodges and thus could not confirm their authenticity.

However, although the letters appeared to be forgeries, David Adams told us something during the interview this morning that raised more questions for us. He told us that he was no longer a member of the Shrine because he was no longer a Mason. We asked Adams to explain the circumstances behind his departure from the Masons, but Adams responded that he had “no comment” about that.

At this point, we had two versions of a letter that appeared to be forged with no way to authenticate it. Organizations are loathe to discuss internal matters publicly because of the bad publicity and because it may result in litigation. Several individuals we interviewed told us they would be happy to provide background information but would not allow us to use their names. All told us the allegation of theft was real, but few had firsthand knowledge or would go on the record.

The Truth About The Alleged Theft

We spoke to David Millis who told us that he was a member of Lodge 1111 in El Paso and a former Potentate. Millis told us that as he understood it, David Adams traveled to Midland Odessa and wrote “himself three checks” for $5,000 each. According to Millis, two of the checks were “intercepted” by El Maida Shrine in El Paso and deposited into the organization’s accounts. A third check was cashed by Adams, according to Millis. Millis told us that David Adams was not “authorized” to use the checks. According to Millis, David Adams was “found guilty and expelled”.

We then spoke to another member with firsthand knowledge of what transpired on the condition that we do not name them by name. We agreed to withhold the name because they had firsthand knowledge of the allegation and attended the Mason trial as a “proxy”. The individual has been a Mason for “25 years”.

The unnamed individual participated in the trial. They told us that David Adams was “convicted” for “misappropriating funds” for the theft of the $5,000 check. This amount corresponds to the $5,000 David Millis told us about. However, the “proxy” added that a “rather substantial amount of money disappeared” and that the financial records were stored on David Adams’ computer that “supposedly crashed” once an audit was started. We were told that the “actual money that disappeared is in the plus 80’s.”

In a follow-up call to David Adams to clarify what we found; Adams confirmed that he “was no longer a Texas Mason.” Asked to clarify if that meant that he was no longer a Mason anywhere, Adams told us that he “would neither confirm nor deny” if he was still a Mason. We persisted and asked for clarification if that meant that Adams had been expelled from the Masons.

Adams responded that “they (Masons) had their rush to judgement” and “they had me removed”. This led us to ask why Adams did not defend himself at the Mason trial. He told us that “we were never given the opportunity to defend ourselves.”

We asked if David Adams knew about the Mason trial and he told us that he found out about it “at the last minute”. However, we were told that Adams had refused to attend by the unnamed individual who attended the trial. We asked Adams if this was true and he responded that because of the Covid-19 restrictions that were in place at the time, he and his “team” were prohibited from attending any public gatherings.

Texas began closing public meetings on March 19, 2020. It wasn’t until March 2021 that Texas began lifting its statewide meeting bans. The Masons held their trial in July 2020.

When we asked Adams why he is being accused of theft when he insists that he did not steal the money, he responded with, how is it possible that he stole money that someone else had admitted to taking. When we asked him to clarify, he told us that “a member of the association admitted to taking funds for personal use, then resigned to avoid prosecution, and has agreed to pay back the monies that were supposedly missing.” We asked him to give us a name, and after admitting to us that he knew who it was, he refused to tell us the name. As such, we have no way to verify whether anyone else has admitted to taking the money. In addition, after telling us that he had “individuals willing to sign affidavits,” Adams would not name them, or provide the affidavits.

Adams added that he “never wrote a check to myself” and that he “wasn’t on the account”.

What we know is that David Adams has admitted to being “removed” from the Masons, that he is no longer a Texas Mason and that, although aware of the Mason trial against him, “under guidelines prohibiting attending any meetings” in Texas at the time of the trial, he and his “team” did not attend the trial.

We could not find any indication that David Adams has been charged with a crime regarding the alleged theft of money. Adams told us the same. However, everyone we spoke to, and the letters suggest that the Masons were the ones that prosecuted Adams and expelled him for the “misappropriation of funds”.

We called the local number of the El Maida Shrine, and the individual we spoke to asked that we not use their name and said that the “organization prefers not to comment” on issue related to the letter.

David Millis, an El Maida Shrine member, told us that a Mason trial was held against David Adams, which Adams has confirmed he did not attend, and that Adams was “expelled”. Adams has also confirmed that he is no longer a “Texas Mason”. The Mason trial, Adam’s non-attendance and that an individual was appointed to represent Adams at the trial was confirmed to us by an individual who says they were present at the trial but asked that we not name them.

The evidence we have gathered suggest that the letters have been doctored, as alleged by David Adams. However, several individuals, both named and unnamed have confirmed that Adams was “expelled” from the Masons, which Adams himself confirmed when he told us that he is no longer a Texas Mason suggesting to us that it is likely an investigation was held about missing money and that David Adams was accused of misappropriating funds. That, however, must be weighed against the unwillingness by the El Maida Shrine and the Texas Masons to confirm the events alleged in the letters.

Martin Paredes

Reporting on public corruption, border politics, immigration and public policy in El Paso since 2000.