The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

October 25, 2013

Lawsuit alleges old Mount Hope High fraudulently transferred to another group

MOUNT HOPE — The nonprofit group Mount Hope Heritage and Hope Inc. (MHHH), has filed suit in Fayette County Circuit Court alleging that its ownership of the old Mount Hope High School was fraudulently transferred to another organization.

William “Bill” Sohonage, of Oak Hill, and Lynne Loetterle, of Mount Hope, The Center of Hope Inc., Mount Hope On Trac and the City of Mount Hope are listed as defendants.

According to the suit, which was filed Sept. 23, 2013, Mount Hope Heritage and Hope (MHHH) began planning to acquire the old Mount Hope High School in spring 2011 to turn it into a youth development center for the community.

MHHH’s mission is “to advocate for a viable, cohesive Mount Hope that respects the community’s heritage and works toward a sustainable future.”

The suit said MHHH was going to use the property for charitable purposes, as it generates thousands of dollars per year in rental income. The property was acquired from the West Virginia Board of Education by a deed dated June 30, 2011.

Sohonage, vice president of the board of directors, was responsible for recording the deed, but according to the suit, he failed to record it in the county land books.

The following month, MHHH agreed to lease the property to the U.S. Military Joint Task Force for an initial one-year term, and optional one-year renewal terms, for an annual rent of $100,000, the suit says.

Over the next few months, the suit says Sohonage “began exercising more and more control” over the operation of the property and many board members began to feel like he was operating “too independently.”

Allegedly around this time, Sohonage began developing a plan to transfer the property. He made a proposal to another local community group, offering to transfer the property to them and in return, he asked the group to hire him under a no-bid contract to do numerous renovations, but the group declined his offer, the lawsuit claims.

He then requested a WVBOE attorney to prepare a deed which would transfer the property from the board of education to an entity (Center of Hope) to be organized by Sohonage, the suit claims.

MHHH said in the suit that it believes Sohonage tried to convince the attorney that it was not the owner of the property, as the June 2011 deed was never recorded.

The attorney, however, told Sohonage the property did not belong to the BOE and the property could not be transferred.

The suit said by the end of 2011, “relations between Sohonage and the board reached a breaking point.” At its February 2012 meeting, the board decided to sever ties with Sohonage, as well as One Trac.

At this meeting, the board did not vote to transfer the Mount Hope High School property to any person or entity, or to share the proceeds, but after that meeting, Sohonage allegedly drafted a fraudulent deed, identifying himself as the president, conveying the title from MHHH to his organization, Center of Hope, the lawsuit claims.

Sohonage then approached the WVBOE attorney a second time, asking her to review his drafted deed. The attorney reviewed the draft and returned the deed, the suit says.

Sohonage officially organized The Center of Hope, Inc., on Feb. 1, 2012, and he and another defendant, Loetterle, recorded the June 2011 deed (which transferred the property from the BOE to MHHH), then recorded the fraudulent deed, transferring the property from MHHH to Center of Hope, according to the lawsuit.

When the MHHH board learned about the fraudulent transfer, they acted immediately to remove Sohonage from the board and revoke his access to the bank account funds, the suit says.

Within several days, Sohonage attempted to withdraw nearly $25,000 from the account, but he was denied access, the lawsuit charges. The bank account was frozen for seven months while the bank conducted an investigation, but access was then restored to the other board members of MHHH.

After taking the title to the property, the suit said Sohonage negotiated a new lease between the U.S. Military Joint Task Force and the Center of Hope. The new lease doubled the previous amount of rent from $100,000 to $200,000.

Mount Hope Heritage and Hope is requesting a declaration that the deed is null and void, declaration that Mount Hope Heritage and Hope owns sole legal title to the property, disgorgement of profits from the defendants, compensatory damages, special damages, punitive damages and attorney’s fees.

Sohonage could not be reached for comment after several attempts.

— E-mail:

Text Only
Latest News
  • W.Va., 11 other states, ask Supreme Court to declare new EPA rules illegal

    Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said Friday that West Virginia led a bipartisan group of 12 states that are asking the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., to declare illegal a settlement agreement in which the EPA promised to issue its now-pending rule concerning existing coal-fired power plants.

    August 1, 2014

  • Ebola outbreak moving faster than control efforts

    An Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 700 people in West Africa is moving faster than efforts to control the disease, the head of the World Health Organization warned as presidents from the affected countries met Friday in Guinea's capital.

    August 1, 2014

  • Oak Hill man arrested for selling drugs to police officers

    A Fayette County man is in jail after his arrest Thursday evening for several drug offenses, according to a press release from the Fayette County Sheriff's Office.

    August 1, 2014

  • Suspect arrested, faces felony charges following shooting incident

    A Mercer County man was arrested and arraigned on felony charges Thursday after a domestic altercation led to a shooting incident in the Montcalm area of Mercer County.

    August 1, 2014

  • pittsburgh rally 5,000 rally in Pittsburgh against EPA Clean Power Plan

    The echo of people chanting, “Hey, hey, EPA, don’t take our jobs away” could be heard in downtown Pittsburgh Thursday. The voices came from about 5,000 United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) members and their families, along with other unions such as the Boilermakers and the Brotherhood of Electrical Workers International (IBEW), marching through the streets.


    August 1, 2014 1 Photo 3 Stories

  • Alpha plans to idle coal workers

    Approximately 1,100 employees at 11 Alpha Resources-affiliated surface mines, preparation plants and other support operations in southern West Virginia got notice late Thursday afternoon that their jobs could be in jeopardy.


    August 1, 2014

  • New rules to fight black lung disease kick in today

    Joe Massie has spent the last 22 years of his life fighting a disease that takes his breath away, a disease he contracted deep underground in the coal mines over a period of 30 years.  Black lung may take away his breath; it has not stilled his voice.

    August 1, 2014

  • target red Zero tolerance Target Red campaign hopes to lessen intersection crashes

    It happens every day. A driver hurries on his or her way to work, school or maybe nowhere in particular. Just ahead, a green light turns yellow. With a little more gas, the vehicle just might be able to clear the intersection before that light turns red. Or maybe not. 

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Alpha announces intention to lay off 1,100 surface miners

    The announcement dealt another blow to Appalachia's iconic, but dwindling, fossil fuel industry. The company said 2015 industry forecasts show Central Appalachian coal production will be less than half of its 2009 output. It's due to a combination of familiar factors, Alpha said: competition from cheaper natural gas, weak domestic and international markets and low coal prices.


    July 31, 2014

  • Justice mines have violations in 5 states

    A West Virginia coal billionaire has more than 250 pending violations at mining operations in Kentucky and four other states.

    July 31, 2014