Rodney “Rocket” Grubbs had been a bit of a pickleball star and was well-known in the sport’s circles. However, now fellow players from across the nation are taking him to a whole different kind of court, claiming he did not deliver on an investment promise.
“A Very Trusted Friend”
Among those speaking out is Jennifer Butler, a retired airline pilot residing in The Villages, just north-west of Orlando, who, like many others, viewed Grubbs as a trusted confidant. Reflecting on the situation, Butler told News Channel 8, “We trusted Rodney Grubbs 100 percent. He was a very trusted friend.”
Grubbs, who had apparently earned a reputation as “pickleball’s ultimate ambassador,” stands accused of leveraging this trust to persuade investors to inject funds into his apparel and equipment venture, Pickleball Rocks.
Estimates suggested Pickleball Rocks would bring in revenue of over $1 million in 2022. However, Grubbs Grubbs required capital injections to meet that figure and decided to pitch his wealthier friends, promising a healthy return on their investment.
Grubbs was also named an ambassador by USA Pickleball, adding to his credibility. It was even suggested that Grubbs deserved to be in the Pickleball Hall of Fame.
While the total number of investors affected is unknown, one person involved in the scheme told IndyStar she estimated 120 people from across the U.S., Canada and Portugal had handed over several million dollars to Grubbs in exchange for promissory notes.
A Cease And Desist Order
A cease and desist order issued by the Indiana Secretary of State alleges that Grubbs and his company engaged in “securities fraud” by peddling unregistered investment opportunities.
According to Butler, Grubbs purportedly told her there was “one more slot” for her to invest, with Indiana investigators revealing discrepancies in these claims. “Grubbs has routinely told investors that Rocks has an ever-recurrent one last available slot to invest at $25,000,” as stated in the cease and desist document.
Aside from these allegations, Grubbs has encountered legal entanglements in various real estate disputes spanning several years. A recent ruling by an Indiana state judge mandated Grubbs to settle court judgments exceeding $9 million, including a substantial sum owed to Florida resident Philip Piche.
We reported how Pickleball Rocks made a donation to a tournament in Warsaw, Indiana, back in September last year.
A 12% Return Over 18 Months
Butler, who invested $90,000 in Grubbs’ pickleball enterprise, represents a cohort of Florida residents enticed by the prospect of a 12% return over 18 months. Expressing her initial trust and subsequent disappointment, Butler remarked, “I trusted him. I was absolutely sure. He was a good friend, and that’s what hurts sometimes even more than the money.”
Butler even defended Grubbs when the allegations first surfaced: “When it all blew up, I said I don’t think Rodney Grubbs would do anything to hurt anyone on purpose,” she recalls. “But I was wrong.”
A Facebook page initiated by Teri Siewert served as a catalyst for others affected by Grubbs and his investment “opportunities.”
Butler noted that requests for repayment from investors like herself have been met with silence from Grubbs.
“When you ask for the money back, you hear not a peep,” Butler says. “He doesn’t answer you.”
Scheduled to appear in Federal Court in Indianapolis, Butler and other investors seek to compel Grubbs into Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings. Should the judge rule in their favor, Grubbs would be compelled to liquidate his assets to settle debts.
In his defense against bankruptcy, Grubbs cited financial constraints, asserting a modest asset valuation and highlighting the potential for Pickleball Rocks’ growth under Chapter 11 restructuring.
While Grubbs remains optimistic about the future of pickleball and his business prospects, Butler and her peers, once staunch supporters of the sport, now have to negotiate the legal minefield that stands in the way of any compensation.
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