The ranch wrangling continues in Conway.
That would be the legal tussling over a ranch-and-restaurant complex that led to foreclosure proceedings against Joanie White-Wagoner, administrator and vice president of Baptist Health Medical Center-Conway.
A lawyer for White-Wagoner and her husband, Darren Wagoner, who are accused by Centennial Bank of defaulting on a $2.5 million mortgage and other loans, said in a statement to Arkansas Business on Thursday that his clients are the victims of fraud by the previous owner, Letitia McMaster.
Attorney Beau Wilcox of Conway said that financial data provided by McMaster before the sale was inaccurate, and “was in fact manipulated to mislead and induce them into the purchase” of the 45-acre Back Achers Ranch and Legends Bar & Grill on College Avenue, which includes a 47,000-SF arena and a house on nearby Shock Loop.
Wilcox said the business ventures were already failing before the sale, and that misrepresentations by McMaster constitute “outright fraud.”
In an April 27 motion in Faulkner County Circuit Court, Wilcox said the Wagoners had filed a third-party complaint against McMaster alleging fraud and breach of contract.
He asked the court to order Centennial to amend its complaint to include McMaster as a defendant. The bank responded that it had no obligation to do so, and that it had seen no evidence of fraud.
In a filing last week, McMaster’s attorney, Otto R. Fry, said she had “not breached the contractual agreement in any manner,” and that the “allegations of fraud and misrepresentation are wholly without merit and should be dismissed.”
Fry also claimed that the Wagoners had defaulted on a separate promissory note to McMaster, failing to make a single $409 monthly payment on the note’s $62,000 debt.
‘Eager to Foist the Loan’
Wilcox said that Centennial, which filed its original lawsuit on Dec. 29, seven months after the Wagoners assumed McMaster’s mortgage, was also misled and defrauded.
But, Wilcox said, “the bank continued to modify loans to the prior owner based on misinformation, and then when my clients took over, the bank was overly eager to foist the loan onto them and then foreclose quickly when things went sour.”
McMaster did not respond to a phone message before press time Thursday.
Attorney Vaughan Hankins of Sherwood, representing Centennial, confirmed that the bank has requested a trial date on the foreclosure and said the Wagoners had “surrendered the property.”
Wilcox characterized the Wagoners as honorable and intelligent people who were “victimized in this ordeal.” They had agreed for the bank to take possession of the property to secure it for a possible sale.
Buyer interest is high, he said, but “obviously it is an expensive and unique piece of property” with a “limited range of possible investors.”
In other filings, the Wagoners confirmed that they have moved off the property.
Wilcox said his clients had tried to work with Centennial, “but to be frank, we are disappointed that they have chosen to so aggressively pursue my clients.”
The bank says the Wagoners, who were operating as Inception Management Group LLC, have not made a payment since late September.
Joanie White-Wagoner, who managed a Texas hospital before moving to Arkansas in 2016, has run Baptist’s hospital in Conway since its opening in September.