Open Letter 8/25/2023

To the Albuquerque Community, 

My name is Michael and I’m the owner of Metal The Brand and New Mexico Sticker Company. Both small businesses that operate in the Albuquerque metro area. I produce printed apparel, stickers, promotional products and other items either custom for clients or original art vended/retailed locally. 

This open letter is about how Chuck Lopez, Director of Business Development at the Duke City Gladiators, under the guise of that brand engaged in services in which he has yet to pay for and in the process was dishonest. 


Chuck Lopez, Director of Business Development, Duke City Gladiators

In 2022 I was approached by Chuck Lopez, a staff member of the Duke City Gladiators (DCG) about the possibility of collaborating with DCG either with art or professional services. We later connected earlier this year on March 7th with an in person meeting at their offices on Menual. That meeting laid out a few things:

  • The opportunity for my brand to have a booth / activation area at the DCG home games. There was no contract or information outlining it. Verbally, in brief, Chuck had said something like “You know, I’ll need something for you to be there, right?” 
  • The DCG was interested in new, unique products. In this case Tie dye t-shirts. Samples were requested. 
  • My business communication is done through email.
  • Overall it was a delightful intro meeting establishing needs and personalities. 

Unfortunately my schedule never allowed me to set-up and activate a space at the DCG games. As a courtesy, I offered him a $250 service credit to use on an order in anticipation that I could attend at least one game in the season. He used that credit to make stickers for a company called Sunternal, which confused me because it wasn’t related to the DCG.

The tie dye shirt samples were dropped off around March 27th. It was a total of 8 pieces. 1 of each size small through 4X and a XL in a different colorway. It was communicated that I needed them back once they looked at the sizes and determined an order quantity. 

Starting April 11th Chuck requested printing for IBEW Local 611 employee Pete Trujillo whose position I’m unsure of. It is either Business Manager or Journeyman or both. Chuck requested stickers, business card sized flyers (rushed)  and a short run of shirts (rushed) that say “Vote For Pedro” in similar style to that seen in the film Napoleon Dynamite. These materials’ purpose are speculated to be campaign promotion. 

Pete Trujillo, IBEW Local 611 Employee

These were quoted, approved, fulfilled and partially paid for. The partial payment happened at a market I was vending at and my quickbooks app wasn’t working correctly. This was communicated to him. Following the fulfillment of the stickers and business card sized flyers, shirts were requested. The quote was agreed to, shirts were printed but not picked up. 

April 19th I asked when I may get the samples back. He replied and continued to reply after that he would return them, which after almost four months they have not been.

On May 18th, after Chuck started to ignore my communications, I reissued the invoice to Chuck directly for Pete Trujillo’s campaign items and created an new invoice for DCG for the samples that were not returned.

On May 25th I went to the DCG offices with the outstanding invoices in hopes I could talk with a staff member to resolve this. I talked to owner Gina Prieskorn-Thomas. I had asked her how I may turn in an outstanding invoice with Chuck and give the context to my situation. Her reply was brash telling me my samples were free unless otherwise stated. In my text messages and emails with Chuck this is stated and affirmed by his replies. I didn’t have these organized to show her at the time. She had said she would put the invoices on his desk and this was not a way to communicate about an invoice and didn’t give me an official channel as to how to do that. 

Gina Prieskorn-Thomas, Owner, Duke City Gladiators

My busy season had picked up and my attention was taken off of this as I had planned to continue to come down to the DCG offices. 

On July 22nd I ran into Chuck at the Route 66 Summerfest. I confronted him about it. He had said “we never got the stickers.” I replied “Yes, you did. You got everything but what you didn’t pick up. When am I coming to resolve this this week?” He replied “Wednesday or Thursday” of the following week. 

On July 26th I arrived at 10 am at the DCG office. The doors were locked and no one seemed to be around. I waited till Gina’s daughter, who works in the building next door for her mother’s other business, and the Head Coach Fred Griggs arrived. I spoke with Fred and he called Chuck to see when he would arrive. He told him to tell me to come back after lunch. I returned at 1 pm. Chuck was not there so I spoke with Gina’s daughter who said Gina would arrive shortly. With brash attitude she started with telling me that the business I was in was not DCG and this was yet another way not to ask for how an invoice may be resolved. It should be noted that when I was meeting with Chuck in March I was in and out of the building she claims is not used for DCG business.  I had informed her that Chuck had said to meet him today or tomorrow and Fred was told for me to return after lunch. After offering to show her printed transcripts of his and I’s conversations she had requested I email her the docs saying “I care about local business, i am one you know… we can figure out a resolution.” I left satisfied that I was heard.

I had emailed her the transcripts of my communications with Chuck on July 27th. I didn’t see a reply but I speculate she looked at it as the invoice linked within says it was looked at shortly after it was sent the same day. 

The same day I emailed Pete Trujillo’s personal email with the situation including my email and text message transcript and the invoice. I did not get a reply. 

On July 27th Chuck had resumed texting implying he’d like to resolve the issue. I assume Pete and or Gina had pinged him to resolve it.  He had said he was out of town and would resolve the issue upon his return, which he could not communicate when that would be. He requested we talk on the phone. I had declined as I needed to document our conversations in text or let me know when to meet him at the DCG offices. The last text from him was August 7th. He called on August 11th. 

In total I sent Pete three emails with no reply. Assuming Pete has seen the emails, it is disappointing to know that he would allow someone associated with delivering campaign promo materials to be dishonest and stiff me. 

In total I sent Gina three emails and met with her twice. It is disappointing that she allowed one of her staff members to act dishonestly in the guise of her company for personal gain knowingly at the expense of a local business. 

Could I have avoided this? Yes, I could have adhered to my deposit/payment in full policy. I could have also had an  invoice issued upon drop off of the samples to officially indicate the context of the samples, which verbally it was said and understood at the time. The problem is this guy takes the buddy approach at business, as some local clients will. It’s heartfelt and warm to connect especially when there is a bond made based on a belief in hard work. I allowed exception because I felt I knew the person, connected and by all accounts there was an amount of potential work. 

I did not approach the DCG. Chuck approached me. In the 10+ years I have been in business I have not been in a situation like this. In my opinion, Chuck used the DCG brand to have me do work for him in exchange for a marketing spot at the home games. When it was determined I wouldn’t be available for those, and I would be billing, he decided to ghost me rather than settle up or work out the sample issue. 

I know of one other speculative dishonest occurrence where he attempted to steal merchandise from a local art vendor after talking with them for a few minutes and needed to be approached about paying for the item after he walked away. This could have been a mistake but when he later visited me at a local market, he asked for items, talked for a while in a buddy buddy type fashion and walked away with the items without paying. I allowed that to happen. It felt slimy.  

I speculate that my situation is not the only occurrence of such behavior. If you have had a similar experience I encourage you to DM me here. This letter a public note of the occurrence for reference and a way to officially get it off my chest. 

Thank you for listening.