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Feud among family of missing bikini barista stand owner

Bill Wheeler’s wife and son are in a court fight over his Grab N’ Go bikini barista stands and other holdings.

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By Diana Hefley
Herald Writer
EVERETT — The wife and son of the man responsible for the city’s controversial bikini espresso stands are fighting over who should run them and live in his house near Mill Creek.
Grab N’ Go Espresso stand owner Bill Wheeler went missing more than a month ago after he failed to return from a trip to Las Vegas. There’s no indication that police are searching for him.
Meanwhile, his son and wife are locked in a legal battle in Snohomish County over Wheeler’s business and personal holdings.
Carol Wheeler has business licenses for her husband’s espresso stands, issued about two weeks after her husband was reported missing by his daughter.
Carol Wheeler and her brother have taken over the stands. The coffee huts have been renamed Carol’s Grab N’ Go Espresso, according to a letter recently sent to The Herald.
The letter offers an apology “for all the community has had to endure in the past.” It promises changes at the stands, including a ban on drugs, nudity and “explicit” dancing by baristas. The stands will continue to be a “bikini beach-friendly environment.”
The letter, from Carol Wheeler’s brother Mark Tetzlaff, says the new company plans to work with police, neighbors and the community to ensure that the stands are “profitable, yet reputable.”
Bill Wheeler’s espresso stands made national headlines last year after five of his employees were investigated for offering and getting paid for performing lewd acts while serving coffee.
The women were charged with prostitution and for violating the city’s adult entertainment rules. Wheeler wasn’t charged in connection with the investigation.
His disappearance has sparked a family feud, complete with serious allegations being aired in Snohomish County Superior Court.
Wheeler’s son last week petitioned for a temporary protection order against Carol Wheeler, 55. Bill Wheeler Jr. accused his stepmother and her brother of threatening him.
He also alleged that Carol Wheeler tried to pay someone $10,000 to kill him while he was in the military. In court papers, Bill Wheeler Jr., 27, also accused his stepmother of having something to do with his father’s disappearance.
He indicated that Carol Wheeler has moved into his father’s Silver Firs-area house. She had been living in Las Vegas for the past five years, the younger Wheeler wrote in his petition.
He told the court that he was living with his father and asked a judge to order Carol Wheeler to vacate the Everett property. He said his stepmother threatened to sell his and his father’s belongings.
Bill Wheeler Jr. also asked a judge to ban his stepmother from any of his father’s businesses, saying he manages his father’s enterprises.
None of the accusations are true, Tetzlaff said Wednesday. Neither he nor his sister threatened Bill Wheeler Jr. or ever tried to hire anyone to kill him, he said. Carol Wheeler has a right to take over her husband’s businesses, Tetzlaff said.
Carol Wheeler provided sheriff’s deputies with paperwork last week that indicates that she has the power of attorney over her husband’s affairs.
“This is all about (Wheeler’s son) getting money,” Tetzlaff said.
Tetzlaff said he is running the businesses for his sister and cleaning up the stands. That’s included firing more than a dozen baristas, many of whom he believed were addicted to drugs, were stealing or otherwise engaged in criminal activity at the coffee huts.
As for his brother-in-law’s disappearance, Tetzlaff said he believes Wheeler may have skipped town because of his financial problems.
Tetzlaff said he found paperwork at Bill Wheeler’s office that would suggest Wheeler had been sending money to banks in Costa Rica.
“He owed a lot of money to people,” Tetzlaff said.
Since he took over the stands, Tetzlaff said, he’s been concerned by some of the people who have approached him looking for Wheeler. He believes some of them may be drug traffickers.
Police here and in Nevada don’t appear to be investigating a crime in connection with Wheeler’s disappearance.
Wheeler went to Las Vegas to retrieve an espresso machine and his Toyota pickup truck. Wheeler’s wife reportedly was the last person to see him at their residence in Vegas on May 26, Snohomish County sheriff’s spokeswoman Rebecca Hover said.
Wheeler’s daughter filed a missing persons report in Everett on June 2. Wheeler’s girlfriend also filed a report.
Wheeler wouldn’t have run away, daughter Barbara Wheeler said at the time.
Wheeler’s burned-out pickup truck was found on May 29 abandoned at a popular dump site in California’s high desert near Victorville, about 80 miles northeast of Los Angeles, according to the California Highway Patrol. Detectives found no other evidence of foul play in or around Wheeler’s truck.
There’s also no evidence that Wheeler made it back to Washington state, Hover said.
“We don’t have evidence of a crime here,” she said.
Sheriff’s investigators contacted police in Las Vegas. Police there said they would work with other law enforcement, but aren’t investigating the man’s disappearance.
“Nobody has come forward to file a report here,” Las Vegas Metro police officer Marcus Martin said Wednesday.
Wheeler has been in financial trouble in recent months. His Silver Firs home is set to be auctioned off by the bank in September, according to county records. He is accused of owing people thousands of dollars in back rent. A judge recently ordered Wheeler to pay nearly $20,000 to a woman who sold Wheeler an espresso stand in 2009.
Wheeler agreed to pay the woman $40,000 but failed to make the final $10,000 payment. Instead he gave the woman checks that bounced, according to court records.
Last week, Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies were called to Wheeler’s house to enforce a court order that Carol Wheeler vacate the house. She wasn’t home and later contacted deputies. She provided deputies a copy of the paperwork signed by her husband in 2005 that gave her power of attorney.
Deputies advised Bill Wheeler Jr. that a judge would need to resolve the issue before they forced Carol Wheeler out of the house. A hearing is set for next week.
This is not the first time the Wheelers have taken legal action against each other.
Bill Wheeler Jr. in 2004 accused his father of forging a signature on adoption papers to take away the younger man’s son. Bill Wheeler Jr. was then in the U.S. Air Force. He was in Japan at the time his signature was written on the adoption papers, he said.
The adoption was filed in Lincoln County, west of Spokane, a place where numerous uncontested family law cases are heard.
Bill Wheeler was granted custody of his grandson after a judge found that Bill Wheeler Jr. didn’t provide evidence that any fraud had occurred. Stationed overseas, the younger Wheeler had to testify in the custody hearing over the phone.
Tetzlaff said his sister has been taking care of the boy.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463;
Story tags » Everett

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