Arvest counsel asks for continuance in suits against Dennis Smiley

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 189 views 

Three civil lawsuits against former Arvest Bank bank president Dennis Smiley may be put on hold until the ongoing criminal case is resolved, according to a letter filed with the Benton County Circuit Court on Aug. 13.

The letter written by Arvest Bank lawyer Craig Campbell asked Benton County Circuit Judge John Scott to grant a continuance on the three outstanding civil lawsuits pending in his court. Campbell said in the letter Arvest Bank is acting on behalf of three cases it inherited from other banks — First National Bank of Fort Smith, First Federal Bank and Delta Trust & Bank. (First Federal Bank is now Bear State Financial and Simmons First National acquired Delta Trust & Bank.)

During a recent pre-trial event, Campbell said it became apparent that defendant Dennis Smiley would be inclined to take the Fifth Amendment in all three of these pending cases as not to incriminate himself. This makes sense given that there are alleged criminal investigations underway, said University of Arkansas legal expert Tim Tarvin.

“The law provides the Fifth Amendment defense in civil proceedings and with these rules in play and various different possibilities at hand this would allow him to protect himself,” Tarvin said.

He said perhaps Arvest Bank also wants to hear his testimony, which could be part of the basis for this motion for continuance. In any event, the Arvest counsel would like to see these three cases postponed, based on the letter.

The court has not yet granted that continuance request. The City Wire spoke to officials in the Benton County Circuit Clerk’s office on Monday (Aug. 17) and was told that Case No. CV-14-518 against Dennis Smiley was on the docket for Aug. 24. This two-day trial is based on loans made by First National Bank of Fort Smith to  Dennis Smiley which Arvest has assumed interest of. The monies involved total $50,640 and $144,258 still owed as of April when Arvest took control of this case.

Case CV-14-573 involving HDS Holdings LLC and H Dennis Smiley and loans made to Smiley by First Federal Bank which have been assumed by Arvest Bank total $50,429 on a commercial line of credit and $20,136 owed as of March 26. This two-day trial is set for Sept. 3, and 4, according to the Benton County clerk’s office.

Case CV-14-415-4 involving Dennis Smiley and his father Henry D. Smiley Sr. and loans made Smiley Jr.  by Delta Trust Bank, now Simmons First National was also assigned to Arvest Bank. The outstanding loans totaled $245,126 were made to Dennis Smiley in late February 2014, just three weeks before he resigned his position at Arvest Bank and this loan scheme came to light. This trial set for Feb 3, 2016, unless it’s continued for a later date. 

Arvest Bank also recently settled it’s own case against Dennis Smiley on Aug. 14. This case was to be heard in Benton County Court on Monday (Aug.17). However, CV- 2014-1177-4 was closed Aug. 14 after Benton County Circuit Judge John Scott granted Arvest judgments totaling $301,116 against HDS Holdings LLC, the business entity of Dennis Smiley.

All the cases involving Henry Dennis Smiley Sr., individually, and as trustee of the family trust were dismissed by the court.

Henry D. Smiley Sr., chairman of the First State Bank of DeQueen, told the court in multiple filings that he was a victim of fraud and had no knowledge of the loans made in his name, nor did he sign any loan documents that were presented as evidence by the lenders seeing payment from him.

As of Monday (Aug. 17) there have not been any formal criminal charges filed against Dennis Smiley Jr. in federal court. Insiders familiar with this situation expect Smiley will render a plea and be formally charged in the next few weeks. It has been nearly 18 months since the loan fraud allegations were raised agains Smiley and he resigned his six-figure income job as president of Arvest Bank Benton County.