SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The money to buy at least 20 motels in South Dakota came from the sale of a portion of a hotel in Palm Desert, California, according to David Hooper who works with AG Dakota and owner Alan Gross.

Hooper said in an interview with KELOLAND’s Angela Kennecke that Gross made money when he sold a portion of the International Hotel in Palm Desert. Hooper said Gross shared his vision to own motels in South Dakota and to use his Palm Desert money to pay for them. AG Dakota was formed and Gross began buying motels in South Dakota in 2018.

The vision seems to have lost focus as Gross’ company AG Dakota bought at least 20 motels in roughly a year and returned most of them back to the prior owners. According to county officials in at least eight counties, AG Dakota also owes about $72,000 in back taxes. KELOLAND Investigates has followed up on dozens of complaints of employees and vendors owed money.

Hooper said Gross intends for the back taxes to be paid and to pay any other outstanding bills. But, he said, what the public needs to understand is that Gross has lost about $2.5 million of his own money through buying motels in South Dakota.

In a Feb. 3 email to KELOLAND’s Angela Kennecke, Gross confirmed that he was removing himself from the company and “over the next two weeks I am working to transition all operational control to Dave Hooper and his team.” Hooper had written an email to Kennecke on Feb. 2 to say that Gross was “stepped away from the company completely” because of a death in the family.

At least some of that $2.5 million came from the sale of a portion of the International Hotel, Hooper said.

An exterior photo of the International Hotel at 74380 El Camino in Palm Desert, California, as posted on Google Maps. Google Maps image.

The International Hotel has been closed for at least a year because of an electrical fire, Hooper said.

The Palm Desert Visitors and Convention Bureau said the hotel hasn’t had a business license for about 1 1/2 years. According to the organization, the hotel has not been open during that time because of the apparent need for repairs. The building is also a hotel with condominiums that are individually owned, according to the visitors and convention bureau.

A website listing for the International and Suites Palm Desert with the same address, 74380 El Camino, as used for the license search, says the hotel has 52 rooms and a pool.

According to Google maps, the address is also the location of LMSHG Investments. LMSHG Investments is the company that involves Gross and his wife, Hooper said.

KELOLAND Investigates spoke with the contractor working on the building. He asked not to be identified, but said that he was making repairs after an electrical surge caused many small fires. He said he was getting paid as insurance money came.

According to the Riverside County, California, Assessor’s office, several condos on the property are owned by individuals, not LMSHG investments.