Judge Dismisses 4-Count Indictment Against Tom Whitehead

Judge Dismisses 4-Count Indictment Against Tom Whitehead
(Lance Turner)

The four-count criminal indictment against former One Bank & Trust executive Tom Whitehead was dismissed Thursday by U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker at the request of federal prosecutors.

Whitehead's attorney, Charles D. Matthews of Hot Springs, confirmed that his client had negotiated an agreement to testify against two co-defendants who remain under indictment, former One Bank executives Michael Heald and Bradley Paul.

A fourth defendant, Gary Rickenbach, last month entered a conditional guilty plea provided Baker agrees to sentence him to two years of probation. Baker has not decided whether to accept the terms Rickenbach negotiated with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Little Rock.

All four men were indicted for their alleged roles in a $1.5 million line of credit extended to a Florida businessman, Albert Solaroli. Solaroli never repaid the loan, and the four were accused of helping One Bank's owner, the late Layton "Scooter" Stuart, cover up the loan loss.

Solaroli pleaded guilty in April to a negotiated charge of money laundering, and he's scheduled for sentencing on Jan. 21.

Matthews said he and Whitehead were "really happy" to have negotiated the dismissal of the charges — one of conspiracy, one of conspiracy to launder money and two of aiding and abetting the falsifying of bank records. Being able to negotiate dismissal rather than a plea agreement is unusual, he said.

Asked whether he thought Heald and Paul would go to trial — now scheduled to start May 31 — Matthews said, "I really don't know. There's no conversation going on with myself, representing Tom, and these other lawyers. That too is unusual."

Heald is represented by Gary D. Corum of Little Rock, and Paul is represented by Lloyd W. "Tre" Kitchens III of Little Rock.