AUSTIN (AP) Sarah Banks had a lot of money when she went to buy a car.
It was about $20,000, but she had a good credit score.
She paid off her mortgage and paid off the balance on a loan from a local auto dealership.
But it was just before Christmas.
The next day, she received a call from a friend asking her to pick up her car.
The dealer wanted to take it for $10.50 to make it available for sale.
Banks and her friend knew the deal was going to fall through, so they said they would take the car, pay for the loan and drive it back to Texas.
But then, she says, the dealership pulled up.
The dealership’s owner, a man named Merrick Banks, said he was the only buyer on the block.
Banks got the car and drove it back.
She said she wasn’t sure what to expect.
But Merrick wanted to make sure he was able to sell the car before Banks did.
She agreed to pay off his $10-a-month loan, which was the minimum to qualify for the car.
He paid off some more.
Then, in late December, Merrick made another $10 million payment on the car for $20 million.
The transaction had the backing of both banks and the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.
But a month later, Merricks lawyer, Richard Schulte, came to the dealership.
He was upset.
“It was a total failure of financial stewardship,” he said in an interview.
“She didn’t get a fair deal.”
So he went to Merrick’s attorney, Daniel G. Vinson, and demanded a trial.
Visser told the court that Merrick had no financial interest in the car or the dealership, and Merrick couldn’t tell Merrick what the deal with the bank was, even though the dealership wanted to sell it.
“We told him to come back with the paperwork, and he came back with nothing,” Vinson said.
Banks says Merrick didn’t show up.
He said he never received any paperwork.
Banks said Merrick never showed up for the trial, either.
He went back to his attorney, who wrote a letter to Merricks bank saying Merrick wasn’t the only one in the dealership who was upset with Banks.
The letter said Merricks loan to Banks was not secured.
The judge didn’t agree.
Visions of a trial were flying.
Merrick and the dealership were back in court, and the case came to a close.
Banks is a former prosecutor who represented former President George W. Bush in a civil suit against Bush’s son, Jeb Bush.
Bush had sued Merrick after he didn’t return a phone call from the Bush campaign.
But the Bush case ended with a $15 million settlement in 2005, and Vinson was let go.
Merricks attorney said Mericks lawyers had tried to force Vinson out of the case.
Mericks lawyer denied that.
“They were going to have a trial, and that was not the case,” Vissers lawyer said.
The settlement didn’t make Merrick whole.
He still owed more than $25 million in loans, and was at risk of losing another $50 million if Merrick failed to come up with a way to pay it off.
Merwick didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“The dealership is just as bad as the Bush people,” Banks said.
“I just want to get it over with.
I don’t want any of my money going to that.”
But Merricks attorneys weren’t done.
They sent Banks a letter saying Merricks business model was based on fraud.
Banks was still furious.
“He went to me and said, ‘Look, I want to be the one in charge of that business.
It’s not mine to do,'” Banks said, her voice rising.
Merwyn Banks says he wasn’t in charge, but Merrick did say he didn’t want to run the business.
“When I said it was my decision, it didn’t matter if he said I wasn’t, he said, in effect, ‘I’m not in charge,’ ” Banks said in a phone interview.
Banks took a plea deal with Merrick in which she would plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of making a false statement, pay a $250 fine and take a class-action class action lawsuit against the dealership and Merricks lenders.
But Visserts letter didn’t convince Merrick to drop the lawsuit.
Merick has since been a member of the Texas bar, and a judge has now ruled in Merricks favor in a case in which Merrick says he made a false claim about a $2 million loan to an employee of the dealership’s customer service department.
Merrill Banks said she’s been a victim of Merrick, and she thinks he’s a scam artist who stole her hard-earned money.