Action Over Loans Raises Fear Missing Entrepreneur Left More

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When Philip "Taylor" Kramer inexplicably disappeared a year ago he not only left behind a wife, two small children and a struggling computer business, he also apparently left tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid loans, court records show.

Now, a widow whose late husband made four loans to Kramer totaling more than $30,000 has filed a complaint in Ventura County Superior Court asking that the loans be repaid with interest.

It could turn out to be the first of many attempts by people who made thousands of dollars in loans to Kramer to get their money back, according to Chuck Carter, a private investigator hired by Kramer's family to find him.

And it might ultimately fall on Kramer's wife, Jennifer, to come up with the money to repay those outstanding debts, Carter said.

Carter, a former officer with the Los Angeles Police Department and federal Drug Enforcement Agency, was hired by Kramer's family and has been working on the case on and off since the Thousand Oaks resident disappeared 13 months ago.

"I don't know of any other specific loans out there, but there will be others," he said.

"This might have been one of the factors in his disappearance," Carter said. "He probably had well over $200,000 in unstructured loans out there. . . . He very well could have felt bad because he just couldn't pay them back. I don't know."

Kathy Kramer, who has helped coordinate the search for her 43-year-old brother, said she found out this week about the complaint and doesn't know if there will be others. "I just want to find my brother," she said.

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Philip Kramer's disappearance has baffled his family and friends since he vanished on his way back from the Los Angeles airport Feb. 12, 1995.

There has been unending speculation about what happened--that the man, a bassist in the '70s with the rock group Iron Butterfly, had committed suicide, or had gone mad and is wandering the streets homeless, or had simply run away.

His disappearance has also baffled the family friend who filed the complaint, according to her lawyer, Melissa Cohen.

Cohen said her client, Leanna Keane, and her husband, Conejo Valley dentist John Keane, were friends with Kramer. John Keane, who died of a heart attack in early 1993, had loaned money to Kramer for unspecified reasons in 1990, 1992 and 1993, court records show. Some of that money may have gone into Kramer's struggling company, Total Multimedia, or TMM. TMM had come out of bankruptcy protection at the end of 1994, said private investigator Carter.

Kramer friend and business partner Dan Shields speculates that they were all personal loans that Kramer took out because he wasn't drawing a paycheck from the company.

"Taylor was making a good salary at TMM, but at certain times during our tenure with the company it had money and certain times it didn't," Shields said.

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According to Keane's attorney, Keane took charge of her husband's estate upon his death. She had to file the complaint seeking repayment now or her claim to the money would become void, her attorney said.

"He's been missing now for a year and I don't think anybody knows if he's dead or alive, but Mrs. Keane cannot prejudice her rights and must file if she ever wants to reclaim that money," Cohen said.

The complaint was not meant to be a hostile action, she said.

After Kramer disappeared, Leanna Keane--who declined to comment on the matter--joined dozens of his friends who went out and searched for him.

"She's a widow," said Kramer's sister, Kathy. "I'm sure she didn't want to do this, but she can't eat that kind of a loss."

Kathy Kramer worries though about what effect the claim might have on her sister-in-law, Jennifer Kramer.

In their desperate search to find Philip Kramer, Kathy Kramer estimates that friends and family members have spent more than $75,000, and still they don't know if he is dead or alive.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Kramer has been trying to cope with the day-to-day struggle of holding down a job as a real estate agent while raising the couple's 5-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son without her husband, Kathy Kramer said.

They spent months trying to get out from under the obligation to pay for the Ford van that Kramer was driving when he disappeared. The finance company eventually forgave the loan.

"This is a real problem," said Kathy Kramer. "It's just horrible for Jennifer. She is in a living legal hell. . . . According to the courts, someone is either dead or alive. There's no in between. And everything she has is community property, so she can't make any moves on anything."

Kramer's sister still hopes her brother is alive, and she keeps working to find him. But she said she is worried what might happen if more people come forward asking for repayment of loans.

"This is the only one we know about right now," she said.

FYI

Philip "Taylor" Kramer is 6 feet, 5 inches tall, 220 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes. He was last seen driving a hunter green 1993 Ford Aerostar van with California license plate 3EBU024. Anyone with information can call (800) 385-5011, a number the family established, or Ventura County sheriff's detectives at 494-8200.

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