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Senior suing West Wilson couple
Jun 15, 2006 12:00 am
June 9, 2006 – An elderly West Wilson County man is suing a Mt. Juliet couple he entrusted with his finances, claiming the pair stole more than half a million dollars from him – a case which could ultimately result in criminal charges.
According to the civil suit, filed June 2 in Wilson County Chancery Court, Kimball L. Harris and her husband, Ricky Harris, transferred $100,000 each from three bank accounts belonging to Robert Lester Willis of Mt. Juliet. It also states they took "at least another $53,000 from cash accounts."
The suit also states the Harrises borrowed $180,000 from Willis, promising the loan would be secured. The plaintiff alleges the defendants "have failed and refused to make repayment on said loan, and … no mortgage, Deed of Trust, collateral or other security was ever given … as promised."
The total amount alleged to have been fraudulently taken from Willis is $533,000.
District Attorney Tommy Thompson did not elaborate on the case, but confirmed his office was investigating and criminal charges could result.
The civil case accuses the Harrises of fraud, conversion of property, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract in not paying back the loan.
The lawsuit is seeking compensatory damages plus pre-judgment interest and punitive damages of $250,000.
According to the eight-page suit, Willis met Kimball Harris through his relationship with a local bank where Harris was employed. The suit states Harris "volunteered to 'assist' [Willis] with his banking" and served in a fiduciary capacity. It also states she enlisted the help of husband Ricky.
Willis' attorney, John Gwin of Mt. Juliet, said the alleged fraud occurred over a period of several years.
"It would appear at this stage … she put her name on the accounts with him so she could help him manage his money, slowly but surely took the money out, took his name off the accounts and did whatever with the money," Gwin said.
Gwin did not disclose the name of the bank where Harris was employed, but he said the alleged acts have continued to occur within the past year.
Furthermore, he said Willis confronted Harris about the money after he discovered one of his bank accounts was closed.
"When he confronted her about it last year, she promised to pay him back," Gwin said.
The suit states she had promised repayment as recently as the summer of 2005, but no repayment of the alleged loan or purported stolen funds has been made.
In addition, the suit states the defendants allegedly put the $180,000 loan and "perhaps other portions of the sums wrongfully taken" into land in West Wilson County.
When reached at the couple's home in Mt. Juliet, Kimball Harris said she had not been served with the suit and was not aware of it.
"I don't really even know anything about a suit," she said. "… [Willis] is a friend of mine. … We've been friends forever, so I don't know what else to tell you."
With the time range alleged and all the documents needed, Gwin acknowledged the case could move slowly at first.
"There's a lot yet to learn about the case before we do any more fingerpointing than we already have," Gwin said. "… This happened over a long period of time, and it's not going to (be) resolve overnight."
Staff Writer Jason Cox can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 45 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.