HOUSTON (CN) – A law firm in Robertson County conspired with a district judge there to extort money and steal land and mineral interests from residents for 15 years, a group of landowners claim in Federal Court.
Attorneys Bryan Russ and James McCullough, with Palmos, Russ, McCullough and Russ have cultivated a cozy relationship with Robertson County District Judge Robert Stem that allows them to use shell companies to claim interest to land they don’t own, buy property at reduced prices and influence settlements, the plaintiffs say.
“Russ and McCullough target three primary groups: poor people, African-Americans, and outsiders, i.e., people who reside outside of Robertson County,” the complaint states.
“It is widely known in and around Robertson County that Judge Stem will rule in favor of the clients of The Firm with no regard to the facts or the law,” it adds.
According to the complaint, it works like this: “When stealing land or mineral interests, Russ and McCullough often use shell companies to create sham transactions. Shell Company A, for example, will purport to transfer its land or mineral interests to Shell Company B, even though Shell Company A never owned the land or mineral interest in the first place. Russ and McCullough, acting through The Firm, then seek a declaratory judgment that Shell Company B owns the land or mineral interest. Judge Stem grants Russ and McCullough permission to serve notice on the allegedly undetermined owners by publication in local newspapers. After the actual owners fail to respond, Judge Stem, at the behest of Russ and McCullough, appoints Dona Harris as attorney ad litem, ostensibly to represent the interests of the actual landowners. On the same day he is appointed, Mr. Harris declares that he cannot locate the actual owners (even though most of them are readily identifiable), and Judge Stem appoints Nestor Leamon [a real estate agent] as receiver to sell the property. Leamon then sells the property to Russ and McCullough at prices far below market value, and the proceeds are put into the registry of the court. If the actual owners fail to claim the money within seven years, Judge Stem gives it back to Shell Company B, i.e., back to Russ and McCullough.”
The 25-page complaint states: “In this Complaint, the Plaintiffs will detail three major incidents of fraud and racketeering involving Judge Stem, Defendants Russ and McCullough, and one or more additional Defendants. The Plaintiffs are aware of other instances in which land or mineral interests were stolen by Russ, McCullough, and Neamon [sic], and they expect to amend their complaint to add additional plaintiffs and defendants.”
The plaintiffs seek damages for RICO conspiracy and fraud. They are represented by Ty Clevenger of Bryan.