Chef reaches settlement with La Joya EDC in small business loan case

The La Joya Economic Development Corp. reached a settlement last week with a chef who borrowed $8,500 for his restaurant and defaulted on the loan.

Mark Sierra borrowed the money to buy equipment for his restaurant, Easton’s Eatsies, in 2016. Sierra made just one payment before he defaulted.

Attorney Jose L. Caso of Edinburg, who represents the La Joya EDC, and attorney Stephan B. Rogers of Boerne, who represents Sierra, announced the settlement during a hearing on April 13.

“Essentially, Mr. Sierra will pay back $7,575 through a payment plan,” Caso said.

The settlement is the amount of money Sierra actually received from the La Joya EDC after deductions for legal fees and paperwork.

Caso said he was confident the La Joya EDC board would approve the settlement agreement, resolving a long-running lawsuit over the loan.

Sierra submitted the loan application in March 2016.

“The funding we are seeking for is to bring in a couple more pieces of equipment like larger commercial refrigeration, restaurant quality food warmers and possibly close up unused space behind our service counter to expand our kitchen a little and make use of that space for storage and production, as well as service racks for product and an ice machine,” Sierra wrote, according to a copy of the application released under the Texas Public Information Act.

After reviewing the application, the La Joya EDC board approved a $8,500 loan to Sierra in April 2016.

The five-year loan came with a 6% interest rate. Sierra, though, told the La Joya EDC he planned to pay back the money within a few months.

Sierra only paid $121.83 before he defaulted, according to documents released under the Public Information Act.

The La Joya EDC filed a lawsuit against Sierra in 2018. Under former Mayor Jose A. “Fito” Salinas, however, the city never followed up.

After he won the December 2019 election, Mayor Isidro Casanova replaced the La Joya EDC board and made collecting on delinquent loans a top priority. Caso revived the lawsuit and negotiated a settlement in less than a year.

 

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