This article was originally published by the Texas Observer, a nonprofit investigative news outlet. Sign up for their weekly newsletter, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.”
In July 2022, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and his wife, state Senator Angela Paxton, took a mysterious multi-country trip to European destinations in Italy, Greece, Malta, and Albania with a protective detail from the Texas Department of Public Safety tagging along.
But the couple may have left their security behind while they traveled to the capital city of Pristina in the Republic of Kosovo on behalf of an obscure new telecom company, then known as Multiband Global, that was run by their friend James Frinzi, a longtime Texas lobbyist-turned-businessman.
There, they joined Frinzi in an official meeting with members of Kosovo’s Parliamentary Committee on Economy, Industry, Entrepreneurship and Trade, and discussed “the potential for business partnerships” for bringing new wireless network technologies like 5G to the small country, according to the company’s own press release.
While the company’s PR didn’t mention the Paxtons, their participation is memorialized in photos posted by both Multiband Global and others who attended, including parliamentary committee members. These photos show Frinzi, Angela and Ken Paxton, and three other associates sitting at a table across from Kosovar officials with mini flags of their respective countries on either side. A cell phone with a Texas flag case sat on the table between the Paxtons. Frinzi and the Paxtons also posed with members on the floor of the Kosovo Parliament chambers.
As it turns out, this PR and photo opps were only part of the Paxtons’ involvement with Frinzi after he took control of a seemingly worthless Nevada shell company called American Metals Recovery and Recycling, Inc. (AMRR), according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission in late 2021. He then used the company to acquire a firm he dubbed Multiband Global.
Now, Frinzi is the subject of two pending complaints in the North Texas federal bankruptcy court stemming from a case involving a bankrupt company and its subsidiaries for which he was CEO. The complaints include allegations that he breached his fiduciary duties by siphoning millions of dollars from those companies, and then used those funds to gain control of AMRR in late 2021 and soon after acquired other firms. The complaints allege these were fraudulent transfers.
As the majority shareholder, Frinzi made himself CEO and board chairman and, in late January 2022, tapped state Senator Angela Paxton to serve on the AMRR board of directors to provide connections and an air of legitimacy to what was then pitched as an exciting new telecom upstart, according to corporate filings and public statements.
Frinzi denies the allegations made against him in bankruptcy court and says the complaints have nothing to do with the Paxtons who are not parties in the litigation or named in the cases.
“The trustee’s job is to recover as much as possible, and one way he tries to do that is to unwind transactions, often by alleging fraudulent transfer claims,” Frinzi wrote in an email response to the Texas Observer’s questions. “If there was any accusation of actual fraud there would be a claim for actual fraud – there is none. I am not accused of defrauding anyone. It’s a fiduciary duty claim.”
Fraudulent transfers are when a debtor’s assets are moved “in order to deter, hinder or defraud a creditor, or to unfairly place such property out of the reach of a creditor,” according to experts and legal documents. It’s an allegation sometimes used in bankruptcy cases by trustees to claw back funds. In this case, the bankruptcy court has made no final rulings on the claims.
Angela Paxton disclosed her board position with AMRR in her latest personal 2022 financial disclosure report, which was filed this July; the Observer is reporting her role for the first time.
Frinzi says she and other board members received stipends. But Angela Paxton did not list any compensation for her AMRR board service in her disclosure report, though it’s not clear if that is required under the state ethics code. Nor have either of the Paxtons said who paid for their European vacation or their side trip to Kosovo. Neither responded to requests for comment.
Frinzi told the Observer that he has known the Paxtons for around 20 years, going back to when he met Ken Paxton through a mutual friend when he served in the Texas House. “He’s one of my best friends,” Frinzi said in an interview. “We do a lot of stuff together.”
Last month, Frinzi resigned as CEO of AMRR, which was renamed MBG Holdings in 2023, according to a corporate filing that stated his departure “was not the result of any disagreement with the Company on any matter relating to the Company’s operations, policies or practices.” He remains active, however, as the company’s board chairman and principal, according to a subsequent filing.
Frinzi says he stepped aside because the company is restructuring its debt and hired a chief restructuring officer to do so. “This is a common practice,” Frinzi said in the email. “As part of the process, our [chief revenue officer] needed the autonomy to manage the debt restructuring. When the restructuring is complete I intend to return as being CEO.”
Earlier this year, Angela Paxton and the company’s treasurer also resigned, per SEC filings, which also state that the departures did not involve any disagreements. Frinzi told the Observer that she left because she became too busy in the Texas Senate during this legislative session to perform her board duties.
These departures came amid growing concern about AMRR’s prospects and finances.
Only a year ago, in the summer of 2022, Frinzi was enlisting the Paxtons to help him aggressively promote that now-troubled corporation, AMRR, the parent company of the firm he calls Multiband Global. Frinzi pitched his company as an exciting new telecom upstart that would leverage its high-powered political connections and unique wireless technology products to “dominate” the coming global expansion of 5G networks.
“The Company believes that her significant experience as a legislator, leader, and educator gives her the qualifications and skills to serve as director,” states the corporate filing disclosing Angela Paxton’s appointment. In a public investor presentation later in October 2022, Frinzi noted Paxton’s experience on the Texas Senate Committee on Business and Commerce, saying, “She’s very experienced at regulatory issues, at telecom” and also has “a lot of exposure to the telecom space” because of the companies like Nokia and T-Mobile in her North Texas district. She joined the board in January 2022 and served until March 2023, according to SEC filings.
The same day that Frinzi’s acquisition of AMRR closed, December 23, 2021, he gave Ken Paxton’s campaign $40,000—Frinzi’s largest-ever contribution in Texas state races, campaign finance records show. Days after Angela Paxton’s board appointment, Frinzi contributed another $35,000 to Ken Paxton, and $10,000 more in May. Frinzi delivered that total haul of $85,000 to Paxton in an intense primary fight. “I’ve given Ken a lot of money. For sure,” Frinzi said, adding “I’m a small fry compared to some people.”
Ken Paxton is currently preparing for his September impeachment trial in the Texas Senate involving allegations that, among other things, he engaged in bribery and abuse of power to help his friend real estate developer Nate Paul, who was recently indicted on federal criminal bank fraud charges. Angela Paxton is recused from voting on or participating in her husband’s trial; she was just removed from a list of witnesses that Paxton’s team was expected to call.
The Kosovo trip is one example of how Ken and Angela Paxton aided Frinzi with their political stature and connections in his marketing of Multiband Global in 2022, press releases and company social posts show. In a public investor presentation in October 2022, Frinzi said that political connections were a key advantage for his company.
“With the influencers and leaders that we have, we have the access to meet people that smaller competitors would probably never meet, would maybe meet if they were lucky over the course of several years,” Frinzi said. “But our team has access to meet high-level influencers, people in our industry, people in politics, that would otherwise be out of touch.”
He called the Kosovo meeting, featuring both of the Paxtons, an example of how political connections could help the company gain a foothold in Eastern European markets. He also noted the company’s 2022 sponsorship of Texas’ AT&T Byron Nelson Golf Tournament, which apparently included meetings with top executives from corporations Multiband hoped to land as clients.
“Our board and with my credentials and connections, I have that credibility almost immediately,” Frinzi said, compared to other upstarts. One photo found on social media shows Angela Paxton at the golf tournament posing with a group in front of what appears to be a Multiband Global exhibit.
On September 6, 2022, Multiband Global posted a photo of Frinzi and his wife posing with the Texas attorney general and former President Donald Trump, stating that the past weekend, Frinzi recently participated in a “Texas business leader roundtable” with Paxton and Trump. “Topics included communications, energy, & foreign trade. We are glad to be involved in forward-thinking business discussions,” the social media post said.
Frinzi told the Observer that it was Trump’s idea to hold the forum, which was at his Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey, and that Paxton invited him to attend. He said the meeting had nothing to do with Multiband Global.
“It was more like, hey, Trump’s having this thing at Bedminster. You should go,” Frinzi said. “It’s not like what you’re trying to make it sound like. It’s just kind of cool to go to Trump’s golf club and meet Donald Trump at a forum.”
In June 2022, Ken and Angela attended Frinzi’s wedding, a relatively intimate affair, according to photos posted on his wedding website. Frinzi then went on a European honeymoon before joining the Paxtons in Pristina, Kosovo, on July 12.
Frinzi says he has longtime relationships in Kosovo, including with a former president, that helped him arrange the meeting with Ferat Shala, a member of Kosovo’s conservative opposition party. Government and company announcements described the meeting as both corporate promotion for Multiband Global and quasi-official trade diplomacy involving telecom technology. “The discussion was based on trade between Texas and Kosovo, the threats involved with using telecom products made in China due to malware and spyware,” Frinzi told the Observer.The Paxtons joined them, Frinzi said, because “they happened to be in Europe, so it just ended up being convenient. And we have a mutual friend in Kosovo.” He didn’t say who that is.
Neither Angela nor Ken Paxtons’ financial disclosures for 2022 list any income or stocks in AMRR, Multiband Global or its affiliates. In what the Paxtons have described as an effort to limit potential ethical conflicts, the power couple’s business and financial interests are supposed to be held in a blind trust.
“We are meeting a delegation from Texas, which through meeting with businesses and institutions, aims to promote U.S. technology for 4G and 5G, raising awareness of the dangers posed by hostile technologies, as well as opening the door for investments from Texas businesses in Kosovo,” Shala said in a notice posted the day of the meeting.
While there was no mention of the Paxtons specifically, a company press release from 2022 said that Frinzi told officials “how Multiband Global can substantially advance the Wi-Fi, cellular, and small cell technology in Kosovo” as the country aims to improve its wireless communications technology. There were other meetings in Kosovo, including a visit to a mattress company owned by Kosovo’s wealthiest industrialist, Shkëlqim Devolli, which the Paxtons joined, according to press releases from one of Devolli’s companies.
The Paxtons’ travels to Europe were first revealed in March by the Dallas Morning News, which reported that Paxton had cited the July 2022 trip—and specifically the week he was in Kosovo—as the reason he would not be able to attend a deposition in a civil lawsuit pending in Texas, because “to require him to change his plans at this late date would cause Paxton to incur an undue burden and expense.” (That particular civil lawsuit, in which Paxton is named as a third party, involves a business dispute with his friend and former business partners that stems from his 2015 indictment for securities fraud, state criminal charges that are still pending in Collin County.)
More details of the Paxtons’ Europe trip appeared in a quarterly report from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) that tracks security-related travel expenses for top statewide officials. The records show that in July 2022, the attorney general traveled to Rome, the Greek island of Lithakia, the Mediterranean island destination of St. Julians in Malta, and the city of Tirana in Albania. DPS records also show they were in the Sicilian port city of Catania in June, though it’s not clear if that was part of the same European tour.
The DPS report shows nearly $80,000 in expenses were billed to Texas taxpayers—including travel, food, and lodging—for the security detail that accompanied the Paxtons in July. But Kosovo is not listed on the report. It is a three-hour drive from Tirana, Albania, to Pristina, Kosovo.
Frinzi is the subject of two bankruptcy complaints that allege he breached his fiduciary duties as CEO of a bankrupt Texas company—called Goodman Networks—and its subsidiaries by fraudulently transferring millions of dollars into other entities Frinzi controlled, and also facilitated moving millions more to other company insiders and alleged middlemen, all while unjustly enriching himself and financing his launch of the new Multiband Global enterprise.
Frinzi denied the allegations in an interview.“The complaints are not clear-cut, and are actually complicated,” Frinzi said in his email to the Observer. “All of these claims are disputed and will be contested.”His attorneys also denied the claims in response to the first complaint.
Gregory Schwegmann, an Austin-based bankruptcy attorney and partner at Reid Collins & Tsai reviewed the complaints against Frinzi at the request of the Observer.“This all looks really bad. It’s hard to imagine a situation where all these transfers can be explained legitimately,” he said.
Both complaints pending in bankruptcy court against Frinzi are related to an involuntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy case filed in 2022 against Goodman Networks, a once-thriving North Texas telecom company for which Frinzi worked as a lobbyist and corporate executive before the firm went belly up.The two related cases that name Frinzi as a defendant were filed by a court-appointed trustee in charge of Goodman Networks, along with an affiliated entity called GNET ATC, of which Frinzi was CEO.
The first complaint was filed in May by that same trustee against Frinzi, his family trust, and an entity he controls; earlier this month, a second was filed against Frinzi and other associates and related entities.
The bankruptcy petitions detail the financial and legal maneuvers that Frinzi allegedly engaged in before, during, and after taking control of what would become Multiband Global. In December 2021, Frinzi “discovered an opportunity to purchase a publicly traded shell that otherwise had no assets,” AMRR, and an “opportunity to purchase an existing business and merge it into the publicly traded shell,” per the filing.
The filings also allege that Frinzi used GNET ATC to secure a loan of $44 million for AMRR that AMRR then used to finance the acquisition of an existing network and IT company for $38 million. Meanwhile, GNET ATC received only worthless stock in exchange and nothing else of value, per the court records. Frinzi also allegedly violated his fiduciary duties by facilitating two transfers of close to $6 million from Goodman Networks subsidiaries that already owed significant amounts of money to a long line of creditors, including Federal Express, the bankruptcy court records say.
Just weeks after all those transfers, Frinzi tapped Angela Paxton in January 2022 to serve as a board director at the company initially still called AMRR.
The second complaint filed this August accused Frinzi and former president of Goodman Networks, James Goodman, as well as other associated entities of participating in a series of multi-million dollar deals “to strip [GNET ATC] of its assets” while “employing concealment and misleading documents in an attempt to ‘paper up’ something they knew to be nefarious and tortious.”
An attorney representing James Goodman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The two men have a yearslong association. Frinzi has served at various times as an executive for companies affiliated with Goodman, including Goodman Networks and GNET ATC itself, according to corporate, campaign finance, and court records.
Goodman is also a supporter of Ken Paxton’s campaigns: He donated a round trip flight on a private plane to take Paxton to Washington, D.C., for a case he was arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court in November 2022 at a cost of $12,000, according to campaign finance reports.
Frinzi told the Observer that Goodman has no financial stake or involvement in Multiband Global.
The petition also alleges that Frinzi has stonewalled a long list of creditors and fraudulently transferred company funds to finance the purchase of a 4,700-square-foot, six-bedroom lake house on Horseshoe Bay in the Texas Hill Country. That house is valued at about $1.5 million in January 2022, according to county tax records. He later transferred the deed for that property to his personal family trust, other records show.
Frinzi denies all those allegations.
Signs of smoke inside AMRR and subsidiary Multiband Global, based in a ritzy Austin suburb, first emerged publicly in March, when Frinzi notified the regulatory agency that the company needed more time to review its finances in order to prepare its report (which still has not been submitted) and would not meet the upcoming deadline. Online investors began raising concerns about the state of the company.
The trustee of GNET claims that things were worse than the company’s filings indicated, alleging that Frinzi and his company have repeatedly failed to make payments to creditors despite agreements to do so and assurances that the funds existed. On March 23, the outside auditors and accounting firm all resigned “effective immediately, in the middle of an audit and in the middle of preparing the quarterly reports,” according to another filing. The filing also noted the departures the following day, including “Angela Paxton (wife of Ken Paxton).”
The trustee pointed to those events as evidence that “very serious issues are present” at MBG Holdings, Inc., which AMRR had recently been renamed. He expressed a greater sense of urgency to get access to the company’s financial information and claimed the company “was stalling” to avoid opening its books. The trustee is now seeking to conduct a “Rule 2004” examination of Multiband Global, an extremely broad inquiry, effectively a legal fishing expedition, that is highly effective at rooting out possible financial fraud.
“Anything short of full transparency at this stage only reeks of shenanigans and mischief, and invites aggressive action,” the April filing warned.
As a longtime operator in lobbying, business, and GOP politics in Texas and throughout the country, Frinzi boasts of friends in high places.
A bio on his lobby shop’s website claims connections to top GOP politicians across the country, including former Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and James Lankford of Oklahoma, former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, along with Governor Greg Abbott and Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin.
Frinzi became CEO and chairman of the board of shell company AMRR in January 2022. At that point, Angela Paxton was appointed to the company’s board of directors, who generally have financial governance and risk management duties, per its SEC filing. She was joined by another of Frinzi’s politico friends, Democratic Illinois state Senator Antonio Munoz, who was then-Democratic assistant majority leader but has since retired.
The other board members included Jeremie Peterkin, a Georgia-based executive named board director and chief financial officer of the company. The company’s annual report to the SEC in 2022 showed CEO James Frinzi—through an entity he solely controlled—was the majority owner of the AMRR, which was doing business as Multiband Global, owning a 73 percent share of the company’s stock.
It’s not clear what benefits Angela Paxton might have received as a board member. The company’s bylaws state, “The Board of Directors, without regard to personal interest, may establish the compensation of directors for services in any capacity.”
In 2022, the board approved an “Equity Incentive Plan” to award financial incentives meant to “encourage key employees, directors, and consultants … to continue their association with the Company,” according to an SEC filing, by “providing favorable opportunities” for ownership and equity in the company and stock “incentives” that were “intended to align their interests” with the company’s stockholders.
In October, Frinzi, Paxton, and the rest of the board authorized the issue of up to 2,000,000 shares to award as “financial incentives to key employees, directors and other persons who render services of special importance to the management,” per a December filing. The filing also disclosed that the Frinzi Family Trust owned 600,000 preferred shares. Dhani Jones, a former NFL linebacker-turned-TV show host, and Lily Tapia, a Florida-based investor, were also added to the board of directors, receiving $15,000 per quarter along with possible stock awards.
Paxton was also named as one of two members of the board’s compensation committee, in charge of implementing the “Equity Incentive Plan,” according to the filing, which states that Paxton qualifies as an “independent director” who is expected to be unconflicted and independent of management.