One Bank Juggled Bad Penny Stock Loan

by George Waldon  on Monday, Sep. 9, 2013 12:00 am  

Former One Bank & Trust CEO and President Layton "Scooter" Stuart (left), who died March 26; Gary Rickenbach (center), former executive vice president and chief loan officer; and Alberto Solaroli (right) of Jacksonville, Fla.

Solaroli claims to hold a breakthrough patent on a “pseudo adiabatic engine” that is more than twice as efficient as conventional engine technology. These days, the 59-year-old is listed as CEO of the USA operations for the Slovakian-based Revolutionary Technologies United LLC.

The cast of characters in the out-of-market loan to Solaroli included two denizens of the Little Rock investment community: Ernest Bartlett III and David Crews.

Crews, an executive vice president at Crews & Associates at the time, referred the Solaroli loan to One Bank and received some of the proceeds, according to Rickenbach.

Crews, the son of the investment firm’s namesake founder, couldn’t be reached for comment. He is no longer with Crews & Associates.

Bartlett’s connection to the Solaroli loan is more quizzical. He couldn’t be reached for comment either.

“Mr. Bartlett was not involved in the Solaroli loan whatsoever, but offered to assist in the resolution of the loan out of a sense of ‘doing right’ when an investor like Crews refers a deal to a bank,” Rickenbach wrote. “At the time, Crews and Bartlett were friends and periodically co-invested in equity investments, and Mr. Bartlett was aware of the outcome of the Solaroli loan.”

(Bartlett made news in July when allegations of securities fraud were leveled against him and others in a cease-and-desist order by Arkansas Securities Commissioner Heath Abshure in connection with Bamco Gas LLC. Bartlett allegedly deceived investors during the sale, through Crews & Associates, of $17 million in debentures in the defunct oil and gas exploration company. The order also detailed Bartlett’s checkered past: the National Association of Securities Dealers in 1989 barred him from association with any NASD-registered broker-dealer in any capacity.)

The Solaroli loan was paid off in 2009 instead of written off thanks to the $1.1 million loan to Stuart’s Crestwood Investments and loans of unspecified value to Crews individually and to Bartlett through Ox Investments LLC, according to Rickenbach’s memo.

One Bank had obtained a nearly $1.6 million judgment against Solaroli in July 2008. The delinquent loan was originally secured by worthless shares in Solaroli’s penny stock venture: Infinite Networks Corp.

“As we pressed ahead with legal action, it was becoming apparent that our collateral would not be able to liquidate the loan, and the bank faced the prospect of a significant loss,” Rickenbach wrote. “Rather than incur such a large loss, I was asked to come up with a solution to resolve the situation.”

The Solaroli loan was a dominant topic in the four-page memo addressed to the One Bank board of directors that also served as a confessional of sorts for Rickenbach and a plea to keep his job.

“It is my desire to be allowed to remain in my current position to continue to help the bank work through these very difficult times we currently face,” he wrote.



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