Former One Bank & Trust executives Michael Heald and Bradley Paul were acquitted Monday of charges related to a 2007 loan after a three-week trial in federal court in Little Rock.
"I'm happy to tell you how extremely pleased we are that Mike's vindicted at long last," Heald's attorney, Gary Corum of Little Rock, told Arkansas Business.
Heald was acquitted on four counts: one each of conspiracy and money laundering and two of aiding and abetting false entries. Paul, who was represented by Lloyd W. "Tré" Kitchens III of Little Rock, was acquitted of the same charges, plus one more count of abetting a false entry.
"It's a fearsome thing to be pursued by a federal prosecutor," said Corum, who went on to say that the defense that persuaded the jury was the same one that the defendants had given U.S. Attorney's Office since the investigation started in the summer of 2013.
"It's just impossible to tell those folks things they don't want to know and to make them understand things they don't want to understand," he complained.
U.S. Attorney Christopher Thyer's office originally indicted four bankers who worked for the late Layton "Scooter" Stuart, who owned One Bank.
The first was Gary Rickenbach, who eventually pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of misprision — that is, failing to report a felony. He testified against Heald and Paul and had not yet been sentenced.
Heald, Paul and Tom Whitehead were added to the indictment in March 2015, but all charges against Whitehead were dropped last December. Whitehead also testified against Heald and Paul.
The charges all related to a $1.5 million loan that Rickenbach facilitated to a Canadian resident of Florida, Alberto Solaroli. Solaroli misrepresented his net worth to the tune of $170 million and never made a single payment on the 2007 loan, and he pleaded guilty to money laundering and received a one-year prison sentence.