|Photo of Tom Balko from Facebook|
Readers of this blog know that I rarely publish anything of a personal nature about myself. This post is an exception.
This post is about the harsh lesson I have learned about friendship. It is ironic because, it was this friendship that was part of the motivation to start and continue this blog since it started back in 2008. It was John Hoff aka Johnny Northside who surfaced back in 2007 and began his online assault on my "friend", Tom Balko who was being attacked by the media for his real estate dealings.
I am not going to go into the details of what all happened with his legal battle, other than to say that I still believe he and his business partner were scape-goats for the City of Minneapolis and was unfairly targeted. The proof that he was set up by the city came from the source of the witch hunt, City Council President Barbara Johnson, at the sentencing hearing. While under oath, Johnson stated how she became aware of my friend and what caused her to pursue exposing his company. The problem was... She flat-out lied. The transcript proved it.
Enough about that.
From the start of his public lynching by the media and John Hoff, thru to the end when the dust settled... I was the only friend who gave support, stood by him and defended him in public.
I knew that by standing up for him in public it could hurt my reputation because of the fact that I was in real estate at that time as well. It made no difference that I was doing my own thing in Texas while Tom was in Minnesota because, John Hoff threatened me by saying he would connect me to a "fraudster" and "ruin" my real estate teaching career. Hoff didn't ruin my career but, he sure did and continues to make good on that threat.
The following comments were submitted by Hoff and copied from the Behind the Mortgage.com blog. They were among the first public bullying threats Hoff made towards me.
It must be a really awful feeling for Jim Watkins to be so closely linked to Balko and Helgeson, and wondering if/when the FBI will come a-calling like Santas who pay a visit to seize boxes of documents instead of delivering gaily-wrapped presents.I gave a lot of thought to the matter and considered the risks involved with taking my friends side and defending him in public. I considered all of the people who had been friends with Tom before all of this happened. All of them turned on him and many even jumped on the bandwagon by making hurtful statements about him online. I had known him pretty much all my life and I know it hurt him to see how so many turned against him or simply just turned their backs to him. He was scared and he felt very alone.
I can’t help but wonder how all the people Watkins is doing business with in Texas–the “mentoring” and “investment” lessons and so forth, see his extensive website–would feel to know Watkins is so closely linked to these individuals (Balko and Helgeson) being investigated by the FBI as part of sworn allegations of mortgage fraud?
The main reason I decided to do what I did for him came down to a matter of right and wrong. I knew he was not guilty of what he was being accused of and he did not deserve the public thrashing he was taking. I believed then and still believe that he was not guilty and if I turned my back on him.... It would have been WRONG. The right thing to do was take his side and be a friend no matter what.
Here is a quote of mine that I had posted on the Helgason-Blako Victims Blog in 2008:
As I said in private to John Hoff, "IF" the end result with all of this is Tom is arrested, charged, tried and convicted... I will be disappointed with him, BUT... I will continue to be his friend.I sent a private email to John Hoff and he turned around and posted it to the TJ Waconia Victims blog. This snippet is from the email I sent Hoff where I told him about how strong the friendship between Tom and I was.
Even IF the worst comes of this mess for Tom, guess what? I will STILL be his friend. There are not enough "John Hoff's" in the world to change that.Fast forward to the current date (Oct. '14) and I can say that I was correct with the statement about there not being enough Hoff's to change that. Unfortunately, it only took ONE person to see that I am no longer a friend of Tom's and that person was... Tom Balko.
A few years back, after Hoff threatened to "make the Balko family hate" me, he sent letters to the prison where Balko was serving his sentence as well as to Balko. I am not sure exactly what he said but, Hoff posted on his blog as well as at least one other that he sent letters with the intent of making Balko's life as hard as possible. Around that time I got a phone call from Tom's father who asked me to back off of my writing about Hoff because of all the things John had been writing and keeping the family name fresh in the search engines. I told Mr. Balko that my issues with John were no longer about Tom and told him I was sorry that I wouldn't be backing off with exposing Hoff.
I did not hear from Tom for about a year after that. Since then I have spoken with Tom on the phone a few times and got set up to communicate with him via the prison's email system. The last time I heard from Tom was in September of 2013 by email. He had responded to my email where I told him about Hoff applying to take the Oklahoma Bar exam. In that reply, Tom didn't comment on the Hoff news. That was the last time I heard from him.
I kept checking the federal inmate website for changes to Tom's release date and I looked forward to his release in mid-August. I had expected to hear from him within hours of his release. Tom was released on August 15, 2014 and I did not hear from him that day. I didn't hear from him the day after either. Days became weeks and now it has been over two months but, I have not heard a word from Tom. It really surprised me and I admit that the total lack of contact has left me wondering what the reasons might be. I also admit that in light of all that I had done and gone thru for him as his only true friend, only to be shut out when he got out.... Hurt. A lot.
My surprise and confusion over being shut out turned into shock a few weeks ago.
The official release date was August 15, 2014 but, I found Tom's Facebook profile and saw that he had created the account in February, 2014 and has since posted several pictures that clearly show he has been out of prison for several months on some sort of early release program, long before the August date.
If anyone is wondering, no.... Tom did not send me a friend request.
I sent him a very long email in mid-September to his Facebook account where I explained my reaction to finding out I had been cut off, among other things. As of today, Tom has not read that email. I decided a few days ago to write this post for a couple of reasons.
One is to voice my disgust towards Tom for his lack of class by not having the common courtesy of at least telling me why he has decided he no longer wishes to have any contact with me. Not to mention why he took such blatant advantage of my friendship and good nature while he needed a friend (when no one else wanted to be) and then kicks me to the curb once he got out of prison.
The other reasons I posted this is to make sure that people see what Hoff will do to a person in order for him to "win" or "prove his point" of not messing with him OR ELSE.
I will add a few pictures after publishing this as well as post a scanned image of the one Christmas card I got from Tom back in December, 2009. Tom expressed how thankful he was to have me as a true friend.
With all the history between Tom and I and all that he and I endured over the last six years, I would have simply never guessed or imagined that he was capable of turning his back on me in the manner that he has. In many ways, I still don't believe it.
A final note to all who are on his facebook friends list... Don't put too much faith, trust or effort into being friends with Tom Balko. I can guarantee you that he doesn't value a thing about you and won't think twice about cutting you off once he doesn't have anything to gain from you. I am living proof of that.
And.... If Tom should happen to read this, I have this to say:
You should be completely embarrassed and ashamed for what you have done and know that what you have done by cutting me off in the manner you have is far worse than anything you have ever been accused of or have done before. I hope I will not end up living the rest of my days regretting the friendship that I valued so highly.