Imprisoned former Oklahoma Gov. David Hall is being sued in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles for breach of contract over a Saudi Arabian business deal he allegedly struck from inside an Arizona prison camp.
A Southern California nursery marketing specialist filed the suit Wednesday. He contended that Hall, who also has the Winnebago distributorship for the Middle East, recruited him for a lucrative contract to develop and operate a 500-acre greenhouse and nursery in the Saudi Arabian desert.
The three-year contract called for salary and fringe benefits amounting to $70,000 annually to be paid by Hall and an Arab sheikh business partner, according to Eric J. Moore, the Vista, Calif., nursery man.
Moore said he was first approached by Hall in late October, a month before Hall entered Swift Trail Federal Prison Camp at Safford, Ariz., on a three-year term for extortion, bribery and conspiracy.
The fact that Moore had to meet Hall inside the prison camp to strike his bargain didn't bother him, Moore said. "It should have been a warning to me," he admitted in a telephone interview, "but it was so attractive I said what the hell."
It was something straight out of those dreamy Arabian nights, Moore said.
But before that dream turned into a nightmare, Moore said, he sold his property, wrapped up his business affairs, got his passport, visa, innoculations and airline ticket, made a hotel reservation for an overnight stop in London and even wrote several thousand dollars in checks to pay his last bills with money Hall promised to send, but which never arrived.
Moore said it all began in late October, when he met Hall in the offices of a Los Angeles architectural firm which had several projects in Saudi Arabia.
Hall was looking for someone to develop and operate a nursery-greenhouse project for International Greenhouses,and his pitch, Moore said, was impressive.
"I thought he was a very sincere, direct, honest, likeable guy," Moore recalled. "He seemed to know what he was doing."
Moore said Hall told him International Greenhouses was a business partnership organized in 1975 with $250,000 each from Hall and Sheikh Abdul Rahman Mutref, allegedly the business adviser to Saudi Prince Bandar, one of the sons of the late King Faisal, and Princess Madauwi Bint Abdulazziz In Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian capital.
Efforts to confirm the identities of Rahman's royal employers were unsuccessful. The Saudi Arabian eembassy in Washington said there isn't even a list of all Saudi pricnesses because "more than one is born every day."
Hall's ownership of the Winnebago distributorship for the Middle East was confirmed by a company official in Forest City, Iowa. His distributoship and addresses listed in both Oklahoma City and at Rahman's post office box in Riyadh.
Charlene Kaiser, an international sales representative for Winnebago Industries, Inc., said however, that sales through Hall's distributorship have been slow lately, presumably because Hall is in prison.
Moore said after his initial meeting with Hall, they planned to meet again on Thanksgiving at an apartment Hall rents in Encinitas, north of San Diego.
The meeting never came of because Hall, who was indicted three days after leaving office in January, 1975, and subsequently was convicted, was ordered to begin serving his prison term and reported to the prison camp at Safford on Nov. 22.
Moore said in late December he received a telephone call from a San Diego friend of Hall's who told him Hall wanted to see him. Moore said arrangements were made for the new year's Day visit.
"When I arrived at the prison my name was on the list and David Hall was expecting me," Moore recalled.
"He mentioned to me too, you know, keep my voice down so they won't hear what we're talking about . . . That's when he made me a definite offer which was very attractive. We came to a verbal agreement that I would take the job."
Ben Brown, supervising case worker at the Safford Prison Camp, said prison regulations prohibit most business dealings by prisoners, and acknowledged that t* he kind of transactions described my Moore apparently violates those rules.
Moore said he flew to Oklahoma City at Hall's request, to sign a formal contract on Jan. 28 when Hall was released from prison briefly for a court appearance.
He said Hall's secretary also sent him a $1,000 check drawn on a Hall personal account in Oklahoma City for work done between Jan. 21 and Fed. 1, but that's the only money he ever received.