MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- All charges against a retired accountant accused of mismanaging nearly $1 million in retirement funds have been dismissed following the death of the alleged victim in the case.
Ralph H. Turley III had been facing one count of possession of client funds while acting as an unlicensed broker and dealer, and one count each of acting as an investment adviser and acting as a broker while unregistered with the state, according to Rutherford County Circuit Court records.
Those charges were formally dismissed recently following the July 2013 death of 82-year-old Patsy R. Linkermann, state officials confirmed Tuesday.
“Unfortunately, the prosecution of the case could no longer continue without the victim to testify in criminal court proceedings,” said Illana Tate, an executive officer with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
According to documents obtained Friday, Nathan S. Nichols, assistant district attorney general, filed the request in October 2013 to dismiss the criminal case, which had been pending before Judge David Bragg.
“It appears to the court that the state of Tennessee feels it can no longer proceed with the prosecution of this matter due to the fact that the alleged victim recently passed away from injuries sustained in an automobile accident,” Bragg said in his order approving the dismissal.
A civil lawsuit that had been pending in Rutherford County Circuit Court since August 2011 has also been thrown out, clearing Turley of any possible civil repercussions that he could have potentially faced had the matter gone to trial.
In an email Friday, attorney Ken Burger, who has represented Turley in both the civil and criminal cases, said “all charges of every nature” have been dismissed entirely because lawyers representing Linkermann were unable to find any evidence to substantiate her claims while they were in the process of closing her estate.
“Following her tragic death in a motor vehicle accident,” Burger said, “representatives of her estate obviously concluded that there was no documentation in any of the financial records that could possible support either a civil judgment or a criminal conviction on the frivolous charges leveled against my client.”
Throughout the legal battles, Burger said Turley never entered a plea bargain, nor did he ever offer any settlement concessions of any nature.
Turley fought against all of the allegations that have been made against him, Burger said, because he is “entirely innocent of any wrongdoing in the matter,” as evidenced by the fact that Linkermann “did not pursue her case at all” for more than two years.
Lawsuit fueled criminal case
The recent developments in both cases come only six months after Turley was indicted by a Rutherford County grand jury on the felony charges.
In June 2013, Turley was arrested and formally charged after the grand jury determined there was enough evidence to pursue the case criminally as well — evidence that was collected after the allegations reportedly caught the eye of local prosecutors when details of the lawsuit became public.
The now defunct criminal charges largely stemmed from claims made by Linkermann, who was seeking $1.5 million in damages against Turley for allegedly losing more than $800,000 of her retirement fund.
During an August 2011 interview with The Murfreesboro Post, attorney Russell Willis said Linkermann suffered emotionally and physically due to the financial mess that Turley caused by his irresponsible decisions.
“It is an extraordinarily sad story,” said Willis, who represented Linkermann in the case. “This is all the money they had. She had to sell her house and downsize everything to be able to live.”
According to court documents, the Linkermanns hired Turley in 1995 and informed him that their primary investment objectives were to generate monthly income and preserve their initial capital, but they did not want any funds to be invested in the stock market.
Turley allegedly told the Linkermanns he would invest their initial retirement funds in a manner that would generate returns of at least 8 percent and they would never lose money.
As part of the agreement, Turley was given the authority to invest in businesses and make secured and unsecured loans to individuals and business owners, as well as other investments.
However, Willis contended Turley authorized an “unacceptable risk of loss to the Linkermanns that they did not appreciate or understand, violated their stated investment criteria, were not in their best interest, and violated what is generally accepted as the prudent investor rule.”
Turley was also accused of filing various federal income tax returns that were prepared with false or incorrect information. By April 2010, Turley allegedly confessed that he had no money to distribute and her money was gone, according to court documents.
“Every few years, it seems as though someone is taken advantage of,” Willis said during the interview. “The light needs to shine on these sorts of things, so people will be more vigilant.”
Despite the years of allegations, Burger has long maintained the lawsuit languished in court because Turley never bilked the Linkermanns out of money, nor did he profit from any of their investments.
He said Turley is “an honest, reliable professional” who was unfairly targeted, noting the majority of the retirement funds were lost due to the Great Recession caused by the collapse of the housing market and financial crisis.
“He did not violate the law and committed no act, which reasonably could be described as unethical or unfair,” Burger said. “The charges lacked merit … and the claim (was) factually and legally frivolous.”