Legal Controversy Overshadows Jimmy Winemiller's Wheeling & Dealing Career

by George Waldon  on Monday, Dec. 12, 2011 12:00 am  

Jimmy Don Winemiller Sr. is no stranger to controversy. The Arkansas businessman, who now calls Memphis home, has stood smack dab in the middle of his own whirlwinds and was caught in the periphery of even more notorious storms.

Winemiller was called as a witness in the Whitewater investigation of former Pulaski County municipal judge David Hale in 1999. Two years later, Winemiller was a reluctant witness once again.

He was subpoenaed to testify in the government's immigration lawsuit against a business partner, David Jewell Jones, accused of helping Chinese women enter the country under false pretenses for nefarious purposes.

Now Winemiller, 73, is battling his own criminal allegations, first made in a lawsuit that arose from a financial dispute made public in the days leading up to the Jones et al trial in Little Rock.

This legal tiff, complete with an allegation of official bribery, celebrated its 10th anniversary in April and still hasn't gone to trial. Few could have guessed the civil fraud case filed in Little Rock U.S. District Court in 2001 would morph into a criminal fraud case in federal court in Greenville, Miss.

Winemiller didn't return calls seeking comment for this article, nor did lawyers and prosecutors on both sides of the civil and criminal cases.

The original case filed by David Rabhan of Swainsboro, Ga., and his Ehrlich Fish Farm Inc. against Winemiller and his wife, Rebecca, and their Straight Creek Farms Inc. opened a can of worms for all involved.

The civil case, in which Rabhan sought damages of more than $8.5 million, was put in legal limbo by a criminal investigation into the events surrounding the sale of Straight Creek Farms, a 1,560-acre catfish operation near Inverness, Miss.

The dispute erupted into a criminal indictment on Aug. 24, 2006, that included fraud charges against Jimmy Winemiller and his son, Michael.

The husband of Jimmy Winemiller's daughter, Becky, was mentioned in the civil suit
as an alleged accomplice in the fraud but wasn't named as a defendant in either case.

The criminal component of the long-running litigation is scheduled to go to trial on Feb. 27, marking the 16th time a courtroom date has been set in the five years since the indictment.

The criminal charges represent the most serious challenge to Winemiller's remarkable record of survival.

Days Gone By



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