MUSKOGEE — The former owner of Arbuckle Wilderness was found not guilty of federal bank fraud and conspiracy charges late Thursday in a case that stemmed from improper loans that contributed to the failure of a Davis bank.
Arbuckle Wilderness is an exotic animal park near Davis.
Victor Earl Garrett, the park’s former owner, was indicted by a federal grand jury that alleged he conspired with W.A. Moore Jr. in 2009 — when Moore was president of First National Bank of Davis — to take out a bank loan that exceeded the federal lending limit.
After Garrett had reached his legal lending limit, a straw man was used as an intermediary to hide from bank examiners an additional $481,247 loan, the grand jury alleged.
Garrett admitted that he received the proceeds from the excessive loan, but denied any intentional wrongdoing.
“He did get the money, but he never intended to defraud the bank and never conspired with anyone,” said John Coyle, Garrett’s attorney, adding that his client used his loans for Arbuckle Wilderness.
A Muskogee federal court jury found Garrett not guilty during a three-day trial.
Coyle called the verdict a “huge win.”
Garrett owned Arbuckle Wilderness from 2004 to 2011, but lost the park to foreclosure and now lives in Texas, Coyle said.
With the court victory behind him, Garrett plans to spend the weekend helping to capture wildebeests, the attorney said.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he opens another park in the future now that he has his life back,” Coyle said.
Moore, the banker, previously pleaded guilty to bank fraud and is awaiting sentencing.
First National Bank of Davis was closed by the Comptroller of the Currency in March 2011. Pauls Valley National Bank took many of its assets.
He did get the money, but he never intended to defraud the bank and never conspired with anyone.”