Kennel co-owner's fast start halted

Aaron Rian hit the Derby Lane scene this year with the speed of a greyhound.

By DON JENSEN, Times Correspondent
Published April 28, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG - Aaron Rian hit the Derby Lane scene this year with the speed of a greyhound.

He entered into partnership with longtime track kennel owner and National Greyhound Association president Chuck Marriott. He supplied quality dogs. And he has watched Marriott & Rian Kennel rise to the top of the track standings.

Rian relishes fast greyhounds and life in the fast lane. But this month, his dazzling world stopped spinning on its axis.

A 28-year-old entrepreneur from Beaverton, Ore., Rian faces lawsuits by the state of Washington and Federal Trade Commission, alleging deceptive tactics in three businesses for which he serves as president. None is related to the greyhound industry.

Merchant Processing Inc., which processes credit card transactions for small businesses, and affiliated companies Vequity Financial Group and Direct Merchant Processing are named in the suits along with Rian. The companies are located in the Beaverton area.

At the request of the FTC, the Federal District Court in Oregon froze all personal and professional assets, appointing a receiver to temporarily take control of the businesses. Derby Lane chief operations officer David Tiano said he has been contacted by an Oregon attorney, requesting all Rian's funds be sent to receivership.

"We had no idea that Aaron was in any trouble, " Tiano said. "It was a shock to us."

Tracks in Jacksonville also are providing receivership for Rian's funds.

Attempts to contact Rian were unsuccessful.

Rian is the first partner Marriott has taken on during his 30-plus years at Derby Lane.

"It was certainly surprising to hear about Aaron, " Marriott said. "I haven't spoken to him since this happened, and I think his dad (Tom) is the only one to have contact with him.

"As far as our kennel is concerned, nothing has changed. The dogs are being fed, the bills are getting paid and the payroll is being met. We have some good young dogs, and trying to win the kennel championship. It's too early to tell what (Rian's) future may hold."

Marriott said Rian still has his Florida parimutuel license, which expires on June 30.

Gary Guccione, NGA executive director, said Rian's issues have been brought up frequently at this week's NGA spring meet at Abilene, Kan., which has attracted more than 500 individuals from around the world.

"For those in the industry looking in, there's a lot of curiosity, " he said. "Our main concern in hearing about it was over the welfare of any dogs, if this puts any dogs at risk. We've gone through the regular checking procedure on that and find no situation has arisen yet from this that jeopardizes any dogs."

Rian has started kennels and raced dogs at various tracks, usually under the name of Portland-based Bad Boy Racing. According to his Web site, Bad Boy believes in running greyhounds with only the finest bloodlines.

Derby Lane spokeswoman Vera Filipelli said she learned of Rian's contribution to the greyhound business at the NGA fall meet in October 2006.

"He created quite a buzz but was humble in the way he went about things, " Filipelli said. "He buys dogs, builds kennels and books all over the country. He has created a lot of jobs within the industry."

The FTC complaint filed April 11 alleges violations of the FTC Act, using deceptive tactics to sell credit and debit card processing services to thousands of small businesses across the country. Federal agents raided MPI offices April 12, which included the confiscation of keys to Rian's Lamborghini and home in Beaverton.

State Attorney General Rob McKenna announced on April 13 a lawsuit against MPI and its two affiliates, alleging violations of Washington's Consumer Protection Act with the defendants using similar deceptive methods on small businesses. An investigation into MPI's practices was initiated in October 2005 by the Washington Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division.

Frank Dorman, a spokesman for the FTC in Washington, D.C., said there haven't been any new developments in the past two weeks. "It's hard to tell when everything will be resolved, " he said.

HORSES: Roman Candles, winner of the Pelican Stakes and Hilton Garden Inn Sprint, heads a six-horse field in today's 7-furlong handicap test on the main track at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar. Jose Martinez Jr. will ride the 5-year-old Florida bred for leading trainer Lynne Scace and owner C. Robert Valeri. Post time for the featured 10th race on the 12-race card is approximately 4:36 p.m.