Farm Couple Thought They Had an Angel With a Magic Wand With AM-Farm Swindles
UNIONVILLE, Iowa (AP) _ When Evelyne and Clifford Burger heard of a way to save their farm and get rid of all their debts, too, it seemed like a dream come true.
It turned out to be a nightmare.
Today, the Burgers’ struggle to retain the land they’ve tilled for decades has turned into a legal fiasco: four lawsuits against them, hundreds of thousands of dollars of debts and the threat of foreclosure.
″It ruined us,″ Mrs. Burger said, slipping her fingers under her glasses to wipe her eyes. ″It’s totally ruined us.″
Mrs. Burger, 55, who has suffered two heart attacks since 1984, blames much of the couple’s troubles on promises she contends were made by Nasib Ed Kalliel and his aides.
Kalliel; his Houston-based company, First Financial Guaranty Corp., and his former attorney are the subjects of an Iowa lawsuit alleging they tried to defraud farmers with phony promises of a loan finding service. Last year, Kalliel was barred from doing business in Kansas, said Jeff Southard, deputy attorney general.
Melodee Hanes, Kalliel’s current attorney in Iowa, declined comment. Repeated calls to First Financial and a number listed to Kalliel, both in Texas, went unanswered.
The Burgers’ accusations regarding Kalliel echo those of other farmers included in the suit, said Tam Ormiston, assistant Iowa attorney general.
Mrs. Burger first met Kalliel in early 1984, more than a year after the couple filed for bankruptcy when floods wiped them out on their 1,400-acre farm, about 20 miles north of the Missouri border.
Kalliel, she contended in court documents and an interview, told the Burgers he would pay off their mortgage and debts of $800,000 and enter into a joint deal with them in which he would own 80 percent of their farm.
The plan, she said, called for Kalliel to lease the Burgers’ home and buildings to them for 99 years, pay rent for bins and barns which would give them $40,000 for living expenses and they’d share the profits 50-50.
″It was like an angel coming to wave a magic wand over you,″ Mrs. Burger said. ″His plan sounded like it would work like a charm.″
Mrs. Burger also said she was so ipressed with Kalliel, she told neighbors about him and several sought out his help.
Kalliel said he owned a construction company, a toy factory and a Colorado gold mine and boasted of Arab connections and access to millions of dollars, she said.
″You’ve got to talk to the man,″ she said. ″He is the most convincing person I’ve ever seen. He believed in himself, too.″
She said he told her ″he wanted to help farmers.″
That summer, the couple needed operating money. After consulting with Kalliel, Mrs. Burger said, they signed two notes for $100,000 from the Rexford State Bank. He acted as the guarantor, she added.
A few weeks later, they received $40,530.50, she said in a statement filed with the suit.
Mrs. Burger said in that statement that when she called Kalliel about the balance, he said it ″was in the bank to be drawn by us whenever we desired, but in the meantime we would not have to pay interest.″
But she said when she called the bank, they said the money wasn’t there.
Still, the Burgers continued to work with Kalliel. ″He was the only hope we had,″ she said.
That fall, the Burgers went to court with a reorganization plan worked out by Kalliel’s aide and his attorney, and the judge ″totally blew his stack,″ she said. ″The plan did not conform with any of the rules of bankruptcy.″
Since then, the Burgers have been sued by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. for their Rexford loan as well as by two banks and a fertilizer company, she said.
She estimated their debts at $350,000-$400,000 in addition to the mortgage. The Burgers also have countersued the banks and the fertilizer company.
Mrs. Burger knows she was too trusting. She says she won’t make that mistake again.
″Nobody comes to that door and tells me anything,″ she said. ″I don’t basically trust anyone anymore - bankers, lawyers, judges.″
But the damage has been done.
″We could be foreclosed any time,″ she said. ″We’re just out here floating. ... Cliff is 70. He can’t go out and get a job. I don’t know what we’d do if we had to move.
″There’s no peace of mind,″ she added. ″Ever.″
End Adv Wed AMs Feb. 5