While awaiting trial on bank fraud charges this summer, the former owner of the “African Queen” residence has died.
Michael Willhoit, 66, died Nov. 17, according to his obituary posted to Legacy.com. Teresa Wallace with the Greene County medical examiner’s office said the case was reported as a “natural death” by a local hospital, meaning no trauma or injury was involved.
Willhoit was charged in June in a 36-count indictment alleging a $1.4 million bank fraud scheme. As the owner and operator of luxury car seller Willhoit Enterprises LLC, Willhoit took out multiple loans from local institutions, including OakStar Bank and Freedom Bank of Southern Missouri in Cassville. He allegedly did not use the funds to buy high-end vehicles — as he indicated on the loan applications — and forged documents to perpetuate the fraud scheme.
Don Ledford, public affairs officer for Western District of Missouri U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison’s office, said a trial is scheduled July 6, 2020.
“I anticipate we will file a motion to dismiss the case, but we can’t do so until we receive the official death notice,” Ledford said via email.
Prior to the indictment, Willhoit became known for his high-profile attempts to sell the “African Queen,” a nickname he gave the 2829 S. Lone Pine Ave. home because of the numerous African artifacts incorporated into the property. Willhoit in February 2018 told The Wall Street Journal he invested $7 million-$8 million renovating and expanding the home. At the time, he was attempting to sell the house on eBay for $8.9 million.
Freedom Bank of Southern Missouri gained control of the residence in an April trustee’s sale. The bank in August listed the property for sale at $1.4 million, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.
Adrianna Norris became a first-time business owner with the opening of Finley River Chiropractic; PaPPo’s Pizzeria & Pub launched its newest location; and Huey Magoo’s opened its second store in the Ozarks.