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Archive 2002

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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Meek given probation, faces $1 million restitution

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tues., Dec. 10, 2002 -- A former Pecos auto dealership owner was sentenced to two  years probation Monday afternoon at the Midland Federal Courthouse.

Ben Frank Meek Jr., 71, appeared before honorable W. Royal Furgeson in Midland after pleading guilty to federal bank fraud charges back in September.

At the time of the plea deal announcement, federal prosecutors said the fraud involved 31 vehicles and was worth a total of $700,000. However, the sentence handed down by Furgeson includes paying restitution in the amount of $1 million.

The incidents had been occurring since January of 1998, according to the plea agreement. It went on to state that Meek admitted using the Internet to get vehicle information on cars from other dealers and entering them as his own inventory. He would then borrow money from State National Bank in Odessa to pay for the non-existent cars.

Meek's family and friends sat in the courtroom crying and wiping their tears from their eyes as Meek's lawyer, H.W. Leverett and Meek spoke to Judge Furgeson.

Leverett began by informing the judge of the presents of Meek's wife, his son, a lawyer from Oklahoma City, his wife and a family friend.

Leverett described his client as a good law-abiding citizen who has worked within his community.

"Sometimes a lawyer has to be creative on the good thing to say of his client," Leverett said. "However, Mr. Meek is the finest man I have represented in this court or in state court."

Meek's time in the Korean War, his ties in his community, only having three jobs which consisted of his time in the service, working with his father and his auto dealerships, being married to the same women for over 40 years and an active leader in his community, serving on the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah School Board and supervising the Pecos Golden Girl Pageant were all brought up by Leverett in describing Meek.

"We are not talking about a monster roller here," Leverett said. "We are talking about a man who had a modest business and lived a comfortable life but not extravagant."

According to Leverett, Meek has given up his social security checks, $55,000 in life insurance and money from his wife's family business.

With all that said, Judge Furgeson asked if a bank representative was present to discuss the correct amount that was owed.

Furgeson then stated that both the bank and the defendant needed to get together and appropriate the current amount of credit.

In sentencing Meek for two years probation, Furgeson added that a restitution of one million dollars should be paid.

"He (Meek) has also had to deal with he humiliation of meeting with the banks," Leverett said.

With the Pecos economy not doing so well, Leverett said that his client was just trying to help out his employees by providing them with a paycheck.

"Mr. Meek was only bringing home $2,000 a month when he was bringing in a salary," Leverett said.

Furgeson said that he was acquainted with the economic problem of the Pecos region and believed Meek was fighting an impossible battle.

"This is a sad story," Furgeson said. "You lost every monetary savings you had."

With that said the judge then asked Meek if he had anything to say to which Meek responds that he does.

"I have disgraced my wife and family," Meeks said as he tries to hold back some tears. "I have done everything bad you can do."

Meek added that he had not done this intentionally he just wanted to keep his business alive.

There were times when he had to take his wife's money in order to make payroll, Meek said.

"I was also determined not to hurt other dealers," Meek said. "And I was able to do that."

Meek added that he would like to thank his supporters for everything they have done.

"I appreciate your service and what you tried to do," Furgeson said.

With that said Furgeson stated that he would give Meek probation and a restitution fee which he added would be impossible for Meek to pay.

"I don't understand how the bank could have let this issue get this far," Furgeson said.

With that said, as Furegson sentenced Meek to two years probation and a restitution fee of $1 million and a fine $100 to be paid to the Crimes Victim Fund.

Under the terms of Meek's probation, he is not allowed to have weapons or drugs on him.

"I hope you and your family find some comfort in this and good luck," Furgeson said.

At the sentencing ended family and friends wiped their tears and someone whispered "Praise God."

According to Supervisor of the United States Probation Office in Pecos, Jamie Reed stated at in general cases where a judge sets a restitution fee it must be paid in full.

"Generally speaking if a restitution fee is set the person must pay it to the best of their ability," Reed said.

However, Reed said that he did not know how it would work in the Meek case.

Red Bluff's water level up, salt could go down

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tues., Dec. 10, 2002 -- Red Bluff Lake has more water than in a while and may have less  salt in the near future, Red Bluff Water Power Control Board members  were told during their regular monthly meeting this morning in Pecos.

The board's final meeting of 2002 was also its shortest one, and during the 30-minute session members were told that the level of Red Bluff Lake is up to just under 50,000 acre/feet right now, after staying around the 40,000 acre/foot level throughout most of the year, too low to allow for water releases in 2002 to farmers along the Pecos River.

"New Mexico has turned us a little amount of water," said Red Bluff managing director Randal Hartman, who added that in a way, it was a Christmas present from the city of Carlsbad.

"It's Carlsbad's time for their lighting ceremony and they had to float (boats) down the river, so they freshened up the water at Red Bluff a little bit," he said. Boats cruise down the Pecos River during the annual pre-Christmas Festival of Lights ceremony, and water was released from the low water dam just south of the city.

Hartman said the lake currently has 49,379 acre/feet of water, up about 3,000 acre/feet from the start of the month.

"We're gaining a little bit. These cloudy days are good for us," he said, though board member Jay Lee said, "That's still not enough to have a big allotment."

Red Bluff's lake level now is about half of what it was in the late 1990s due to the ongoing drought in West Texas and New Mexico. However, 2002's rainfall totals have been above average, and Hartman said, "The forecast for January through March for Texas and southeastern New Mexico is to expect above average rainfall."

Because of the drought, he also said New Mexico officials have sent Red Bluff a letter saying they would not be able to meet their full delivery of water under the Pecos River Compact. "They anticipate being 10,000 acre/feet short, but the thing is they don't have to deliver in until the end of next year, so we may not get it until December," he said.

New Mexico did deliver a $264,000 payment through the State of Texas to Red Bluff, as part of the 1989 agreement settling the compact dispute, board members were told while going over accounts payable, receipts and cash disbursements, all of which were approved unanimously.

The district also received a $775 check for salt sales from Sun West Salt Co., and Hartman said the drilling of a well to pump more salt water out of the Pecos River at Malaga Bend should begin next week.

"They're supposed to start drilling on the 16th of December," Hartman said. The well will be drilled down about 250 feet and water will be pumped out of the salt spring entering the river at that point and into ponds, where the water will be evaporated and the salt mined by Sun West.

Work on the well should be completed sometime before the end of the year.

"They're just going to drill one (well). It's pushing it for two," said Hartman, while board member Lloyd Goodrich added, "If we get one in operation, we've at least done something for the last 5½ years," since the project was first proposed.

Board members also approved the minutes from their November meeting, and agreed to merit bonuses for Christmas for the district's four employees.

"We gave them 40 percent of one month's salary last year, so I make a motion to give them the same," said board member Charlotte Wilcox. The motion was seconded by Teresa Walker and approved by all members, except Manuel Lujan, who did not arrive until the end of the meeting.

Rescheduled tree lighting set for tonight

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tues., Dec. 10, 2002 -- The Pecos Rotary Club will be hosting its third annual  Community Christmas Tree lighting ceremony tonight at 7 p.m. at Maxey Park,  a week later than originally scheduled due to bad weather.

According to Rotary Club member Nancy Ontiveros, the ceremony will start with the first, second and third grades of Austin Elementary singing Christmas songs.

"The children will sing three songs followed by a countdown leading to the lighting of the tree," she said.

Ontiveros also said that Mariachi Perla would be signing several Christmas songs and the Texas State Guard would be presenting the colors.

"We will also be singing the national anthem," Ontiveros said.

Reeves County Judge Jimmy Galindo and Mayor Dot Stafford will be guests at the event and will share some brief words with the community. They will then light up the Christmas tree at the end of the count down, Ontiveros said.

"We will sing more songs after the lighting of the tree," Ontiveros said. "It will then be followed with the Pecos Youth Advisory Commission serving hot chocolate and cookies."

Ontiveros said that the community could also take this opportunity to view the new displays provided by Zavala Elementary, Bessie Haynes Elementary and Pecos High School.

"Santa Claus will also be flying in from the North Pole to take pictures with the children," Ontiveros said.

With the Rotary Club encouraging community involvement, Ontiveros said that this has truly become a community effect.

"I hope to see everyone out there," Ontiveros said.

School board plans evaluation of Love in meeting

PECOS, Tues., Dec. 10, 2002 -- Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Board will meet at 6 p.m., today to evaluate Superintendent Don Love in executive session.

The meeting will be held in closed session under the Texas Open Meetings Act, Texas Government Code, Section 551.101 et. seq., Section 551.074. The evaluation is the only item on this evening's agenda.

Board members meet at the Technology Center, 1301 S. Eddy St.


PECOS, Tues., Dec. 10, 2002 -- High Monday 51. Low this morning 30. Forecast for tonight:   Mostly clear. Lows around 35. South winds 5 to 15  mph. Wednesday:  Partly cloudy morning:  Becoming mostly  cloudy in the afternoon. Highs 60 to 65. Southwest winds 10 to 20  mph. Wednesday night:  Mostly cloudy. Lows around 35. Thursday:   Mostly cloudy with isolated showers and thunderstorms. Highs around  55. Friday:  Mostly clear. Lows 25 to 30. Highs around 55.


Patsy Pate

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