By Sarah Mansheim
An exonerated man and his alleged victim have joined together to file a pair of civil lawsuits in Greenbrier County Circuit Court.
On Nov. 5, 2015, Selwyn Vanderpool and Joseph W. Boswell III filed suit against Branch Banking and Trust Co. (BB&T), the Greenbrier County Sheriff’s Office and Cpl. B.M. Hunt. Last month, Vanderpool and Boswell also filed a suit against the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, its Greenbrier County field office, and its employee, social worker Drema Stanley.
Vanderpool and Boswell are represented by Lewisburg attorney Barry L. Bruce.
According to the suits, improper investigations into financial transactions between Vanderpool and Boswell resulted in the arrest of Boswell for the financial exploitation of Vanderpool and his late wife, Lila Vanderpool. Boswell was arrested on Feb. 7, 2014, after turning himself in to the police, who accused him of stealing money from the elderly Vanderpools.
The charges against Boswell were dismissed without prejudice on August 19, 2014 on the motion of Greenbrier County Prosecutor Patrick I. Via.
The suits allege that the investigation and subsequent arrest of Boswell have caused him financial harm by damaging his reputation, both locally and country-wide: Boswell’s arrest and its subsequent publicity led to the loss of revenue in his multi-level marketing company, Cornerstone Marketing LLC, and of the loss of his local businesses. Further, the suit alleges, BB&T’s internal investigation has led to the seizure of $93,500 from Vanderpool and Boswell, which the bank has not returned to either of the men.
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It all started with a fall.
When Lila Vanderpool fell at her home in Renick, the elderly woman found herself receiving long-term care at The Brier assisted living facility near Ronceverte. Concerned that her daily care would drain their coffers, Lila and her husband of 49 years, Selwyn Vanderpool, inquired about social services to help defray the costs of her stay in the long-term facility.
Their case worker at The Brier told them that they had too many assets to qualify for financial assistance, and, the lawsuit against DHHR says, advised Mr. Vanderpool to move the assets out of his name in order to both protect their assets and qualify for financial assistance.
The Vanderpools had no children, but they did have a friendship with Boswell. Boswell and the Vanderpools had become acquainted in 2007, and maintained both a personal and a business relationship over the years.
On Jan. 7, Mr. Vanderpool had deposited an annuity check made to Mrs. Vanderpool in the amount of $121,646.20 into her bank account at BB&T. Mrs. Vanderpool was the primary holder of the account, and Mr. Vanderpool’s name was also on the account.
Two days later, Boswell, who also held a bank account at BB&T, deposited a check in the same amount, written to him by Mr. Vanderpool, into his Cornerstone Marketing business checking account.
On the advice of his attorney, on Jan. 31, 2014, Mr. Vanderpool, then 92 years old, established the Selwyn Vanderpool and Lila Vanderpool Irrevocable Living Trust, with Mr. Vanderpool named trustee. That same day, Boswell requested two BB&T cashier checks from his Cornerstone Marketing account, one in the amount of $93,000 and one in the amount of $500, made out to the trust. Boswell delivered the checks to Mr. Vanderpool, who deposited them into the new trust account at City National Bank.
On Feb. 5, BB&T stopped payment on the checks. Two days later, Boswell was arrested, accused of swindling the Vanderpools out of their money.
On Feb. 20, Mrs. Vanderpool died.
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On Jan. 31, 2014, Mr. Vanderpool not only established a trust for him and his wife, he also travelled to Seneca Health Center where a psychologist administered a psychological evaluation, which established that he had no indications of cognitive impairment and “no memory, attention/concentration or judgment/insight deficits,” according to the report contained in the suit.
Despite having a clean bill of mental health, DHHR social worker Drema Stanley was worried that Vanderpool was being taken advantage of by Boswell. In the suit filed against DHHR and Stanley, the two men assert that her perception that Vanderpool was mentally incapacitated, and that Boswell was taking advantage, led to the investigation and its aftermath.
DHHR and Stanley launched an investigation through Adult Protective Services, the suit says, accessing personal bank accounts and web-based information.
At a private meeting with Vanderpool at the Fairlea DHHR offices, the suit says Stanley tried to get him to incriminate Boswell by telling him a series of untruths about his friend and business partner: among other things, Stanley told Vanderpool that Boswell had taken advantage of others in the past, that Boswell had sold the mineral rights to Vanderpool’s farm for $20,000 and that Boswell had named himself Vanderpool’s power of attorney.
She allegedly told him, “that all it would take is for Vanderpool to have an ‘unexplained accident’ or be given arsenic or something, and Boswell would own everything,” the suit says.
In a later conversation with Boswell, Stanley allegedly told him that she was going to have him arrested, and that his face would be all over the newspapers and television stations, and his reputation would be ruined. Next, the suit says, Stanley went to the police.
The suit also alleges that DHHR attempted to get Vanderpool’s power of attorney over his wife revoked. On Feb. 19, Vanderpool had to attend a competency hearing with DHHR from 6-7 p.m. That meeting, the suit says, prevented him from being by his wife’s side. She died six hours later, and no one alerted him to her passing until after she was gone.
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Now, over two years later, Boswell and Vanderpool are seeking damages from BB&T, the sheriff’s department and Cpl. Hunt, who led the investigation, and from DHHR. The suits allege that the investigation and subsequent arrest of Boswell did irrevocable damage to his business reputation. Boswell says he lost his Cornerstone Marketing holdings and was forced to sell his storage building and used car businesses after his reputation was damaged.
The suits also accuse BB&T of releasing financial records to Hunt without following exact protocol – Hunt did not alert Boswell or Vanderpool that their bank account information had been subpoenaed – which is against state code.
What’s more, Boswell and Vanderpool say that BB&T still hasn’t returned the $93,500 to Boswell, Vanderpool, or the trust. Without access to those funds, the suits maintain that both men are suffering: At 93 years old, Vanderpool is unable to earn an income, and his trust is not able to earn interest on the money. Also, his property has fallen into disrepair and he doesn’t have the money for upkeep; and Boswell, the suit says, had his home foreclosed upon last year by his mortgage holder, which just so happens to be BB&T.