White sat down with me in early July to tell his side of things. He was pleasant and smiling, maybe 5 feet 4 inches tall, stocky and strong. Bald on top. Gray on the sides. Looks a little like Jackie Coogan, the actor who played Uncle Fester in The Addams Family TV show in the 1960s. He lives in a house in southwest Fort Worth that is appraised for tax purposes at about $350,000, and he keeps an office near I-20 and Southwest Boulevard. Visitors to his workspace find a large stuffed bear near the doorway as a greeting.
The judgments against him in recent legal cases do not mean he has done anything wrong, he said. White said he just doesn’t warm up to jurors well.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Better asked by a psychiatrist than by me. Juries’ decisions are made more on emotions than they are fact.”
White told me he did not use Parks’ finance company as a shield to commit fraud in the Clark case. White accused Parks of lying, saying their problems began years earlier over a house deal. Parks lived in a house that he was buying via contract for deed with White, who held the deed, according to both men. White accused Parks of getting behind on payments, forcing White to evict Parks and his wife about five years ago. It has been war ever since. Parks denied missing payments and accused White of taking the property in a manner similar to the way Clark alleges the attorney took her property. Trying to get White disbarred while assisting Clark with her lawsuit is Parks’ manner of seeking justice and, sure, maybe some revenge.
“Part of this is retribution for what he’s done,” Parks said.
A Texas state bar disciplinary counsel wrote a letter to Parks on April 2, 2015, saying that an investigation into White revealed “no just cause to believe that the above named lawyer has committed professional misconduct.”
Parks wrote back accusing the state bar of sweeping “the conduct of unethical lawyers under the rug so as to protect their own.”
White and Parks finally squared off during a deposition for the Clark case in February, based on excerpts from the deposition transcript.
Michael Parks, a high school graduate with no legal training, represented himself. He got to square off against White during the Clark case in February. Based on the transcripts of the deposition obtained by the Weekly, White appeared to suffer numerous memory lapses during the deposition.
White says in the transcripts that he was hired to foreclose on Clark’s property but couldn’t remember who had hired him. He couldn’t recall when he had written the foreclosure papers. He said he no longer had documents related to the case and doesn’t know what happened to them. He said the Parkses’ Optima Financial purchased the foreclosure, ended up with the property, and sold it, and White didn’t receive any of the money from the sale.
Under questioning from Parks, White said Optima Financial sold the property to a man named Robert Massey. However, Parks pointed out that the contract had White’s handwriting on it, while the business phone and address listed on the contract were Isbell’s. Isbell was listed as president of Optima, even though Isbell did not work at Optima. It was the Parkses’ company.
Parks asked White who received the proceeds from the $150,000 sale of Clark’s property.
“I would imagine it was Optima Financial,” White answered.
Parks asked if a wire transfer of $74,000 from White’s bank to Isbell’s bank was a payment after the sale of the Clark property. White said he didn’t know. Parks presented a copy of a $69,169 check made out to White.
“So out of the … sale of the property, you wired Mr. Isbell $74,000 to his account … and you took $69,169.16 of the proceeds and put it in your escrow account,” Parks said. “Did you not?”
“I don’t know where that money came from,” White replied.
“Where is the money to Optima Financial?” Parks said. “Do you have a check for that?”
“I don’t know,” White answered.
Parks asked if White’s bank would have a record of a check that had been written to Optima.
“Could very well be,” White responded.
“Yeah, isn’t the real truth, Mr. White, y’all stole this –– Ms. Clark’s property –– created fraudulent documents, used Optima Financial’s company to do it with, and sold this lady’s property, a single mother, and kicked her and her children out in the street and sold her property, and you and Mr. Isbell split the money up?”
“No,” White answered.
Parks asked if the buyer, Massey, had been told erroneously that Isbell was president of Optima.
White answered no.
Parks then presented an affidavit signed by Massey, who swore that he had asked White specifically about the Clark property’s ownership, title, and any lawsuits or liens associated with land.
“Mr. White,” Massey said in the affidavit, “informed me unequivocally that all lawsuits had been settled regarding the property and the title was clear. Further, he assured me that Alton Isbell was the true owner of the property, along with Optima Financial, a corporation of which Mr. Isbell was the president, and, therefore, Isbell had the authority to sell the property.”
White answered that Massey was lying.
“Why would Mr. Massey lie about it?” Parks asked.
“I have no idea,” White replied.
“It’s just somebody else lying [about] you, Mr. White?”
Parks asked about gas well interests that White sold on a large section of land that included Clark’s property. White denied selling them. Parks presented White’s 2007 income tax return that reported he had sold $650,000 in mineral interests from that property to Chesapeake Energy.
White answered the money belonged to someone else.
Parks asked why White would pay taxes on $650,000 that wasn’t his. White answered that his accountant advised him to pay the taxes because the money was listed under White’s social security number.
“Well, did you file an amended return?” Parks asked.
“I did not,” White replied.
Parks asked White about being sued by his former law partner, Kent Davis, and being found to have committed breach of fiduciary duty and fraud.
“In layman terms, what does that mean?” Parks asked.
“I would not know,” White replied.
“Isn’t it ‘lying’ and ‘cheating’ and ‘stealing?’ ” Parks said. “Would that be a correct term?”
“Could be,” White answered.
Parks asked about the Allianz insurance lawsuit that forced White to return $12,000 that was intended for Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Crippled Children.
“And in that lawsuit, you are accused of creating documents and … back-dating the affidavits to where you would get $6,006 a month for 55 months from the estate of Mike Walters,” Parks said. “Is that correct?”
“Let me go over this,” Parks said. “Mike Walters’ mother took out an annuity policy for Mike Walters, right?”
“That is correct.”
“OK, and he was to get $6,008.71 [a month] for a period of 10 years,” Parks said. “Is that correct?”
“Could very well be,” White answered.
Parks asked if the money was supposed to go to the Scottish Rite hospital in the event of Walters’ death. White’s answer was that the initial agreement was to send the money to the hospital. But two days after the suicide, White sent the insurance company handling the annuity, Allianz, a request for a beneficiary change dated June 25, 2007. The new beneficiary for all those future monthly payments, according to the request submitted by White, was White himself, identified on the form as the “attorney/friend” of Walters.
Parks asked White about the judgment in that lawsuit.
“And then they –– the crippled children’s hospital –– were finally awarded that money, and they got a judgment against you and the estate for the $12,000 plus attorney fees?” Parks said.
“They got a judgment against me for the money that I had –– I’d gotten, yes,” White responded.
“Wasn’t this an attempt by you to defraud the crippled children’s hospital out of … $6,000 a month for 55 months?” Parks said.
“No,” White replied. (He had claimed earlier under questioning that he had not received any insurance money intended for the hospital.)
“What was it an attempt to do then, Mr. White?” Parks said.
“It was an attempt on behalf of Michael Walters to change the beneficiary to me,” White said.
“Wasn’t he dead at the time that he signed it?” Parks said. “Because you signed it?”
“No,” White answered.
Later, under questioning by attorney Xavier Gonzalez, representing Parks’ son Kyle, White said he had forgotten about the two annuity payments he had received totaling $12,000.
“I also asked you, Mr. White,” Gonzalez said, “three different times if you had gotten paid for whatever work or whatever you did with regard to Diana Clark’s eviction and foreclosure, and I believe you told me three times that you didn’t get paid.”
“Correct,” White replied.
“Would you like to change that testimony now?”
Gonzalez asked White why “proceeds from the sale of the Diana Clark property went directly to you and was [sic] deposited in your trust account.”
White answered that the money was intended for Optima, but he had no records to prove that the money went anywhere other than his bank account.
Later, Parks resumed questioning White about where the money went.
“I didn’t keep the money,” White answered. “The money went into the escrow account.”
“Well, it’s your escrow account, isn’t it?” Parks said.
“And you put it in there?”
“So what happened to it?”
“I don’t know.”
The deposition went on in this manner for about three hours with White denying culpability regardless of how the evidence stacked up.
During our conversation at White’s office, he said he could not afford to pay the judgments against him. I asked whether he would file bankruptcy for protection against the more than $1 million in judgments against him currently, with another judgment on appeal.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “I haven’t thought about it.”
A judgment is “a piece of paper,” he said, adding that his assets are exempt from seizure.
White’s attorney, Joe Kimball, was sitting in on our conversation. Kimball decided to answer my question more fully.
Texas was “settled by a bunch of deadbeats” from Tennessee and other states, Kimball said, “running from creditors in that part of the world. We’re a very debtor-friendly state. You can’t go after wages. You can’t go after your house. There is a whole list of things left over from our founding that says you still get to keep a horse, a mule, and a bridle and saddle for each one, 120 head of chickens, four or five pigs, and eight or 12 cows. If there is property, other than stuff that is exempt, it can be affected by a judgment. But a judgment doesn’t attach to your homestead, and you’ve got a significant amount of exempt property –– cars, clothes, tools –– that you are allowed to keep to continue your lifestyle.”
Kimball went on to list other exemptions, such as 401(k) and IRA funds.
“The only thing that is not exempt is cash in your bank,” he said.
White said he doesn’t have any extra money lying around in a savings account.
Clark is suing regardless of whether she ever sees a dime from White. She expects nothing from Isbell, either. He filed for bankruptcy in 2014.
Still, Clark wants her case to go to trial sooner rather than later. She wants closure, although White doesn’t appear to be in a hurry.
“He knows all the tricks of the trade,” she said. “Every time we file something, he files something back.”