Trial between Dunton and Rhodes begins this week

Lawsuit sites breach of contract, common law fraud and intentional misrepresentation

KINGMAN - Local businessman and developer Scott Dunton may soon see justice served in a civil case against developer Jim Rhodes.

Jury instruction for the case is scheduled to begin on Friday.

According to the original complaint filed in Mohave County Superior Court in January 2005, Dunton, along with McAlister Investments, is suing American Land Management, Rhodes Design and Development Corporation and Matt Lawson, vice president of land development and acquisitions for Rhodes Homes, for specific performance of contract, breach of contract, common law fraud and intentional misrepresentation.

According to court documents, in October 2004, Dunton and Rhodes were both attempting to purchase more than 5,100 acres of land from Yandell Trust.

During the negotiations, Rhodes and Dunton realized that it would be better if the two of them teamed up and purchased the land together.

This was due to an escalating bidding war, according to Dunton.

The two entered into an agreement where Dunton would withdraw his bid and Rhodes would purchase the property and then sell part of it to Dunton.

Dunton and McAlister are asking the court to force Rhodes to honor the agreement, pay for attorney's fees, interest on fees and other costs, punitive and actual damages for common law fraud, and intentional misrepresentation.

According to court documents, Dunton and his partner, McAlister Investments, were supposed to open a separate escrow account and deposit $350,000 in it in order to pay for their share of the property.

Rhodes was supposed to use the money in the escrow account to help purchase the property.

Included with the original complaint is a copy of the letter from Matt Lawson on Rhodes Homes letterhead to Dunton dated Oct. 27.

The letter states, "This letter will serve as an agreement between your company, Walnut Creek, and the company I represent, Rhodes Homes, as it pertains to Yandell Trust Property."

The letter then details how Dunton will remove his bid and Rhodes will purchase the property and sell part of it to Dunton.

It also details how Dunton was supposed to open an escrow account depositing half of the purchase price for the property.

According to Dunton's complaint, he and McAlister fulfilled their end of the agreement.

They pulled their bid for the property and opened the escrow account.

Rhodes, through a "Charles Sakura," negotiated a separate agreement with Yandell Trust to purchase the land, the suit contends.

The land was then assigned to American Land, which is believed to be a subsidiary company of Rhodes.

The complaint states, "American Land was formed shortly before the commencement of the transaction stated herein, and, on information and belief, as part of an overall scheme to intentionally and wrongfully purchase all of the Yandell Trust Property without honoring the obligation to (Dunton and McAlister) as set forth under the terms of the agreement."

Then, "Rhodes and Lawson refused to communicate with (Dunton and McAlister) as to the progress of the transaction, the existence of the separate agreements involving Sakura and American Land, or the scheme by which they intended to purchase the Yandell Trust Property."

In January 2005, Rhodes informed Dunton and McAlister that he had no intention of honoring their agreement and refused to transfer the land.

The complaint states, "(Dunton and McAlister) are ready, willing and able to close the transaction pursuant to the agreement and the terms of the escrow.

"Despite demands made by (Dunton and McAlister), (Rhodes) still refuses to recognize the existence of the agreement or the viability of the escrow or rights of (Dunton and McAlister)."