Stone Bank Sued Over Farm Loans

Stone Bank Sued Over Farm Loans
Stone Bank at 1302 Hwy. 62/65 N. in Harrison

A Boone County farmer has sued Stone Bank of Mountain View, its president, its former president and a former loan officer in a wide-ranging complaint that includes allegations of fraud in its government-backed farm loan program and pressure to pay kickbacks to the loan officer.

Nathan Lippe of Omaha, owner of a commercial trucking company and a cow-calf business, alleges that in 2018, James Johnson, then a Stone Bank vice president, lured him into refinancing his existing business loans with loans guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Services Agency.

Lippe said Johnson and Marvin Sutterfield, who was working as an agri loan consultant despite being disciplined by federal regulators in 2012 when he was president of the bank under its previous name, doctored his loan application because they knew he was not eligible for the FSA program, designed as a last resort.

“This suit is wholly without merit and will be vigorously defended. Stone Bank is confident that it will prevail in this matter,” CEO Marnie Oldner told Whispers in an email. Stone Bank had not yet filed a response to the 44-page complaint that attorneys Robert A. Ginnaven III of Jasper and Grant Ragland of Harrison filed in Boone County Circuit Court on May 18.

In the lawsuit, Lippe alleges that Johnson then began pressuring Lippe for personal loans totaling at least $50,000 — loans that Johnson never repaid. A series of cryptic text messages between Johnson and Lippe was included as an exhibit in the lawsuit.

Between December 2018 and July 2019, according to Lippe, Johnson made at least 75 requests for personal loans, which Lippe eventually realized Johnson “never had any intention of repaying … but instead engaged in a game of ‘pay to play’” as a condition of being a Stone Bank customer.

Blowing the Whistle

On July 23, 2019, Lippe says, he reported Johnson’s loan demands to Nick Roach, who was and is Stone Bank’s president, and believed that Roach would help him recoup $50,000 from Johnson. With that expectation, Lippe paid $40,000 of a $90,000 annual loan payment.

But instead of helping him get the rest of the payment from Johnson, the lawsuit says Roach retaliated by declaring Lippe’s FSA loan to be in default. Lippe also accuses Roach’s wife, Ashley Roach, the bank’s compliance officer, of concealing illegal activities.

When Lippe attempted to pay the remaining $50,000, according to the complaint, Roach refused to accept the payment and instead offered to settle the dispute if Lippe would sign a confidentiality agreement and a waiver of liability. Lippe refused, and Stone Bank filed a foreclosure suit, even though Lippe “was never delinquent in his debt to Stone Bank,” according to the suit.

Johnson’s employment with Stone Bank ended in August 2019, according to his LinkedIn profile; Lippe’s complaint says Johnson was fired. Johnson could not be reached for comment through his current employer, former Gov. Mike Huckabee’s Ozark Mountain Media.

‘Suspicious’ Fire

On Sept. 9, 2019, Lippe’s home “burned under suspicious circumstances,” according to his complaint. Only then did Lippe learn that his house, on which he was making biweekly mortgage payments to Stone Bank, had been used as security on his FSA loan, which Ginnaven said was improper. While he owed less than $92,000 on the mortgage, Stone Bank told his insurer that the payoff was almost $700,000 — the balance of the FSA loan — so the entire insurance payout of $183,000 was sent to the bank, leaving Lippe essentially homeless.

Lippe ultimately disentangled himself from Stone Bank by finding a new lender and paying Stone Bank $530,000, which covered the balance of his FSA loan plus Stone Bank’s attorney’s fees.

The lawsuit — which names the bank, Johnson, Nick Roach, Ashley Roach, Sutterfield and up to 45 John and Jane Does as defendants — seeks to recover more than $1.3 million, plus punitive damages.

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