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Ben Parker Inc. owner left behind millions in produce debt

by Tim Linden | February 08, 2009
Ben Parker, who operated a produce wholesale brokerage operation in Dallas named Ben Parker Inc., died last month leaving behind $5 million to $6 million in produce debt, according to Kate Ellis of the law firm of McCarron & Diess in Washington, DC.

Ms. Ellis said that her firm filed a complaint in a Texas court Jan. 16 on behalf of a produce industry client asking the court for a temporary restraining order to freeze assets. It was during this proceeding that the death of Mr. Parker the day before was revealed. Although there has not been confirmation of the circumstances surrounding his death, it has been widely believed among his many creditors that the cause of death was suicide.

A number of produce industry attorneys representing more than a handful of produce industry clients have surfaced. Ms. Ellis said that a court hearing scheduled for Feb. 4 to address the granting of a preliminary injunction and establishment of a claims procedure was delayed as the opposing sides worked to hammer out a settlement.

Ms. Ellis said that at least one large buyer of Mr. Parker's has been identified that is holding more than $1 million in accounts payable to the now-defunct Dallas firm. Mr. Parker apparently operated his wholesale brokerage business from his home. While other members of his family are listed on his PACA license, his suppliers indicated that it was basically a one-man shop with a bookkeeper.

In late January, a call to the company's phone number was met with a recording stating that the company was not in operation due to a "personal tragedy." Now that same number is disconnected.

Ms. Ellis said that the case will continue as a typical PACA Trust case, with produce industry creditors expected to be first in line for any assets resulting from produce industry sales. However, because of the death of Mr. Parker, it is possible that Texas probate laws will also come into play as the case proceeds.