It's gone: Couple lost $175K in biofuel case

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa--In their biofuels fraud prosecution of Darrell Duane Smith, prosecutors focused on several victim stories, including the family of veterinarian Clyde L. Odom Sr., who lived in Alaska and Mississippi and died of liver cancer in...

Betty Lou Law, 85, of Marcus, Iowa, said she learned of Darrell Duane Smith’s fraud shortly after her husband, Verle, died in 2012. Verle had invested $175,000 in Smith’s biofuel dreams, or a third of their assets, she said. “I know it’s gone,” she says. Photo taken Sept. 7, 2018, at Marcus, Iowa. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa-In their biofuels fraud prosecution of Darrell Duane Smith , prosecutors focused on several victim stories, including the family of veterinarian Clyde L. Odom Sr., who lived in Alaska and Mississippi and died of liver cancer in Mississippi in October 2012.

Smith made 33 unauthorized transactions totaling nearly $1.2 million. After Odom's death, Smith forged the signature and initials of his son, Clyde L. Odom Jr., of Tuscaloosa, Ala., to extract trust funds, and even set up bank accounts under the son's name.

Odom Jr. twice drove 12 hours to Iowa to attend sentencing hearings on Sept. 6 and Oct. 5.

Clyde Odom Jr., of Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Dr. Joan Priestley, of Anchorage, Alaska.

In a measured, but firm voice, Odom Jr., offered a victim impact statement, addressed Smith personally, saying that his father treated Smith like family. Now, he called Smith a "crook, a con-man, a liar, a thief." Judging by Smith's gaunt appearance in court, Odom said he wouldn't be surprised if Smith died before his prison term expires.


Also on the stand was Joan Priestley, a retired medical doctor from Anchorage, Alaska. She said Smith took $528,400 from her personal accounts, a family foundation and family trust between 2009 and 2012. (Smith unsuccessfully argued the figure was $200,000.)

Priestley described how she discovered the unauthorized withdrawals in 2013 and extensively investigated Smith's transactions and forced the company into receivership in an effort to salvage value. She noted clients who had made claims through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority had claimed $4.4 million in losses.

Priestley said there were dozens of victims, some who didn't show up in court. Priestley said the take-home message for investors is to "pay attention to investments" especially in companies that are not publicly traded.

One who didn't make the trip was Betty Lou Law of Marcus, Iowa.

Law, 85, flanked by two grown daughters in an interview at her home, said her husband, Verle, a former farmer and trucker, invested $175,000 with Smith because of his belief in value-added agriculture.

Law said the money represented about a third of her assets. It means she lives in a smaller house than she'd like and will reduce the inheritance the couple would have passed on to their children.

"I know it's lost," Law said. "Nothing I could do about it. I'm one of these people that (realizes) what happens, happens; what's gone is gone. Forget about it."

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