STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS
PORTALES — A Portales bank and a Clovis couple are battling over whether the bank took advantage of an elderly couple in loans on their Portales-area ranch.
The fight began when Portales National Bank filed for foreclosure on Abe and Maurene Ribble’s 5,000-acre ranch in July 1999, saying the couple owed the bank more than $168,000.
The Ribbles sued the bank, alleging it took advantage by letting them run up more debt than they could repay.
The lawsuit alleged bank president David Stone took advantage of Abe Ribble’s failing physical and mental health and ‘‘engaged in a course of conduct that resulted in so much indebtedness that Mr. Stone would ultimately be able to gain control of the Ribble ranch.’’
The lawsuit also said the Ribbles took out several loans to cover excessive overdraft fees the bank charged.
The bank contends Ribble knew exactly what he was doing. The bank’s attorney, Stephen Doerr, said the couple’s daughter, Jim Elyce Wade and her husband, Charles, of Clovis, wanted the ranch for themselves.
The Ribbles ‘‘did not want to see anything go to their daughter and son-in-law. They made numerous statements to people at the bank — Mr. Stone and others — that they were going to spend everything before they died,’’ Doerr said.
Reached at her home Thursday afternoon, Jim Elyce Wade disputed Doerr’s statement that her father really wanted to spend all his money before he died.
“That’s not true as far as I’m concerned,” she said. “The main thing they wanted their money to go to was their great-grand-kids because they were still young and not in college yet. My dad had always said he would love to help them through college.
“I think my father was taken advantage of when he really couldn’t handle his money that well. He was at a point in his life when he was almost into dementia and I think that they picked up on that.”
Stone said the charges against him are ridiculous but he wouldn’t comment further because he didn’t want to taint any future jury.
“I want this tried, not on the air, not in the paper; we want this tried in front of a Roosevelt County jury,” Stone said Thursday afternoon.
Abe Ribble died at age 96 in March 2002; his wife died seven months later. Wade and her husband became the plaintiffs.
A judge threw out most of the lawsuit in August 2002, but the state Court of Appeals reversed that decision in May. The case will be tried before a state district judge in Roosevelt County.
‘‘Something needs to be done to stop this banker from doing the same thing to other people,’’ said Warren Frost, the family’s attorney.
The Ribbles did not realize the ramifications of the financial arrangements with the bank and ‘‘spent the last part of their lives worrying about paying the heating bill,’’ Frost said.
Wade said her father trusted Stone when he began to have trouble keeping track of the couple’s finances. She said her parents wanted to take care of their own problems and said nothing to her.