DUDLEY Morse Farm Stand, at 993 North Woodstock Roadway in Southbridge, sits as a welcoming tip of summertime. Even in the bitterest February, the shelves are ripe with plump tomatoes, and the durable, homegrown Brussels sprouts which people come for from as far as New Hampshire are firm and fresh to the touch, ready for roasting with a touch of olive oil.
The retail farm stand, open seven days a week, year-round, is plainly the item of owner Randal W. Morses heart, soul and lifetime of labor, just as it had actually been for his moms and dads, Eleanor P. Morse, who died in May 2009, and Wayne H. Morse, who passed away in November 2013.
But business has been tough lately.
Roadway building over numerous years reduced clients in the summer season and fall high seasons. Consumers pinched pennies during the economic downturn. Expenditures for seeds, devices and other capital for the neighboring agricultural parcels where the Morse family farmed for years were a continuous drain.
On top of the financial pressures, Randal Morse divided much of his time over the previous eight years managing the retail and wholesale farm deal with looking after his ailing parents nearly fullfull-time.
The monetary and psychological pressures builtdeveloped.
In February 2013, under situations that are the subject of a civil suit submitted last August in Worcester Superior Court, a prime parcel about 23.5 acres of buildable land at 1 Silvestri Roadway in Dudley, known as Morse Farm was sold by the 87-year-old Wayne Morse, who was in illness with substantial cognitive impairments, for $20,000 to Paul D. Raffa, a commercial loan officer at Hometown Bank in Auburn.
The legal problems have yet to be adjudicated.
However, the case raises concerns about the ethics of a bank officer investing for individual gain in home that would normally be the topic of a bank loan. It likewise calls into question the validity of a contract made by someone in compromised health who trusted spoken assurances more than the phrasing of a genuinea property document or an attorneys counsel.
When all the truths come out, Ill be exonerated on it, Im sure, Mr. Raffa stated, before decreasing to comment additionally on the case on the advice of his attorney.
Mr. Raffa added, There are no rules versus acquiring home by an advertisement loan provider.
Randal Morse, who was 65 when the suit was filed, initially called the Telegram Gazette about the circumstance, but he decreased to speak even more for an article.
His legal representative, Patrick C. Tinsley of Fletcher Tilton PC in Worcester, stated, I do not think Ill be able to comment on this. The case is in active litigation.
Southbridge lawyer Michael V. Caplette, who represented Wayne Morse in the land transaction, did not return a number of call for remark.
According to court files, Randal Morses legal representative declared Mr. Raffa fraudulently induced the sale of genuinerealty by deceptiveness and breach of fiduciary task.
Randal Morse stated that Mr. Raffa provided the $20,000 as a loan, with a mortgage to Morse Farm in Dudley as security. He was moderating on behalf of his papa, who had title to the land, when Mr. Raffa presumably informed him that the Morses might repay the loan plus incidental expenditures and recover the building.
Mr. Raffa likewise signed a farm lease arrangement with Randal Morse and Morse Farm Stand to farm the land, for an indefinite durationtime period, for $1 yearly lease.
Mr. Raffa, who was residing in Charlton at the time and is now building a house at 23 Elizabeth Drive in Millbury, rejected the transaction was anything however a voluntary sale, according to court files.
Although he paid just $20,000 for the parcel, which according to the Morse grievance had a fair market value of at least $180,000 and had as soon as been for sale for $499,000, Mr. Raffa had the ability to secure home loans on it 3 times for increasingly greater amounts, many times over what he had actually paid.
Most recently, on Jan. 20, 2015, Mr. Raffa took an industrial home mortgage on the building from Millbury National Bank for $200,000. The pending claim over the sale of Morse Farm is not listed among permitted encumbrances or anywhere else in the home mortgage document, even though the home loan was gotten 5 months after the match was submitted.
The existing conflict is a large departure from the farm households previously friendly relationship with their community loan provider.
Randal Morse initially met Mr. Raffa, then a business development supervisor at Southbridge Credit Union, in February 2012 while seeking a $30,000 small-business loan to raise working capital for Morse Farm and Morse Farm Stand.
Southbridge Credit Union sent Mr. Raffa to satisfymeet him at the farm, and finding that Mr. Raffa had worked for years on his cousins apple orchard in Sutton, the 2 struck it off.
Mr. Raffa was active in the neighborhood as a leader of Community Company Associates, a business referral network. According to his LinkedIn profile, he belonged to the Central Massachusetts South Chamber of Commerce board of directors and still serves on the executive committee for the Millbury Bicentennial Committee. He likewise published that he got the 40 Under 40 Award in 2009 from Worcester Company Journal.
Around April 2012, Southbridge Credit Union accepted the $30,000 loan. However Mr. Raffa stopped working there prior to the loan was paid out.
A couple of weeks later Mr. Raffa was employed as a commercial loan officer by Hometown Bank.
In February 2013, Randal Morse and Mr. Raffa talked about a business loan for the farm. The two differed once again in their description of exactly what happened at that meeting.
However according to Randal Morses grievance, Mr. Raffa pertained to the farm and offered to loan him $20,000 from his individual funds, protected by a home mortgage on Morse Farm, in an effort to avoid Randal Morse from doing company with his previous employer, Southbridge Credit Union, or other loan providers.
With Wayne Morses approval of the recommended loan terms, Mr. Raffas lawyer, Thomas C. Marino of the firm Rousseau Marino PC of Sturbridge, sent out the documents to Randal Morse, who didnt receive them till 2 days prior to the plants for which the loan was required were due to arrive.
According to the complaint, the regards to the arrangement laid out in the documents Mr. Marino had actually prepared had altered in practically every material respect.
The grievance states: Raffa led Randy to expect a promissory note and home mortgage agreement memorializing a $20,000 interest- and penalty-free loan from Raffa to Randy, safeguarded by a $20,000 mortgage on Morse Farm. Instead, Raffas attorney prepared a purchase and sale arrangement; a service warranty deed and a farm lease agreement.
The problem continues that Wayne Morse did not examine the purchase and sale, service warranty deed or farm-lease agreement because his significantly jeopardized health did not permit him to check out or comprehend legal files. …
Raffa ought to have understood that Wayne was not competent to get in into a contract for the sale of Morse Farm due to the fact that Randy had actually previously recommended him of Waynes condition. In addition, David Barszcz of Southbridge Cooperative credit union had actually previously figured out that Wayne must not be a signatory to any more loan contracts due to his absence of capacity.
Randal Morse told Mr. Raffa that his daddy wouldnt accept the proposed sale. However Mr. Raffa supposedly insisted that the purchase and sale contract was essentially just a $20,000 loan against a home loan on the farm and this was just the simplest way of phrasing the contract.
Mr. Caplette, Wayne Morses legal representative, requested for Mr. Raffa to put that guarantee in composing, however Mr. Raffa decreased and apparently showed that Mr. Caplette was crazy for questioning him on this matter and offered guarantees that he would sell the home back in a heart beat, according to the court file.
Mr. Raffa rejected both allegations about how he identified the sale to Randal Morse and his response to Mr. Caplette.
Despite these evident disparities, and after the town of Dudley declined to exercise its right of very first refusal for the land that accompanied its advantageous agricultural tax condition, Wayne Morse signed the purchase and sale, the guarantee deed and farm lease arrangement due to the fact that he depended on Mr. Raffas assures.
His boy also signed the farm lease agreement, comprehending that Mr. Raffa would return the farm to Wayne upon repayment of the $20,000 plus costs.
That return never ever happened.
At the end of October 2013, Randal Morse informed Mr. Raffa that he was repaying the $20,000 loan and desired Wayne Morse brought back to complete title to the building.
According to the grievance, Mr. Raffa accepted the offer and stated he would get back to him with the certain amount owed for insurance coverage and taxes. Mr. Raffa then informed Wayne Morses attorney that he rejected Randal Morses offer and would not market Morse Farm to Wayne or Randal.
Wayne Morse passed away on Nov. 6, 2013. Under his will, Randal Morse, as sole beneficiary, was appointed executor of the estate. He would have acquired his dads ownership in Morse Farm.
SinceEver since, Randal Morse asserted, Mr. Raffa has actually repeatedly tried to obstruct his access to the farm and bother him.
In May 2014, after sending Randal Morse notifications to give up the farm building, Mr. Raffa called Dudley cops to ask for a no-trespass order.
Mr. Raffas complaint stated that police were called because Randal Morse was making use of cannabis on the building, although there is no reference of cannabis in the authorities report.
Cops dropped the trespassing matter after getting a copy of Randal Morses farm lease arrangement with Mr. Raffa.
While the claim over Morse Farm goes through the court, Mr. Raffa has actually taken out various home loans from Millbury National Bank and individual loan providers, besides the mortgages on the farm.
In August 2014, Mr. Raffa and Jennifer Valois borrowed $393,600 for 16 and 18 Elizabeth Drive, on the Millbury-Auburn-Oxford line, according to the Worcester County Computer registry of Deeds.
Mr. Raffa had actually purchased the lots in December 2013 for $160,000 from Robert B. Arello Jr. of Sarasota, Florida, and in January 2014 mortgaged them back to Mr. Arello for $130,000. The loan was released in August.
Also last August, Mr. Raffa and Brennan J. Salo of Salo Construction Co. Inc. sent strategies to the Millbury structure inspector for home construction costing $290,000 at 23 Elizabeth Drive. The 2.2-acre lot, without improvements, is examined by the town at $156,400.
Whatever genuine estate financial investment Mr. Raffa is engaged in, his individual participation in what likely might have been a company loan for his company, Hometown Bank, is highly unusual, according to Barbara Anthony, previous undersecretary of the state Workplace of Customer Affairs and Company Policy.
In their lending policies there would be requirements about being impartial and conflict-free, Ms. Anthony stated in a phone interview. It definitely appears that as a loan officer … he had some commitment to his company to bring the consumer to the monetary organization.
She included, A loan officer also has a fiduciary commitment to the client to deal in an above-board way.
Michael D. Hewitt, president and CEO of Hometown Bank stated that loaning policies are internal documents for the bank and bank regulators utilize only. He decreased to discuss an employee issue.
Contact Susan Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @SusanSpencerTG.