Inside the Brandon Barber Case: Looking at His 5 Co-Defendants

by Chris Bahn  on Monday, Jun. 24, 2013 12:00 am  

Nearly 300 incoming freshmen gathered at Centenary College in Shreveport in 2008 for a welcome address from one of the tiny liberal arts school’s success stories.

New York City investment banker James Van Doren, a 1998 Centenary graduate and former student body president, served as keynote speaker that day. Van Doren, who grew up in Jonesboro and went on to graduate from both the London School of Economics and the University of Virginia Law School, outlined what he believed to be the true measures of success.

“Life is not about the degrees you hold, the name of the company on your business card, how big your house is, or how much money is in your bank account,” Van Doren said from the podium. “It is a set of experiences, ... the people you meet, the things you learn, the places you go and the relationships you build along the way.”

Relationships can, as Van Doren suggested to the Centenary freshmen, be an integral part of a person’s accomplishments.

Relationships also can prove detrimental, as suggested by federal indictments against Van Doren and others with ties to former northwest Arkansas real estate developer Brandon Barber. Van Doren is one of five men charged as co-defendants with Barber in a pair of fraud and money-laundering cases filed in the Western District of Arkansas.

Van Doren, Barber and Fayetteville attorney K. Vaughn Knight are scheduled for trial Sept. 16 before U.S. District Judge P.K. Holmes in Fort Smith.

Jeff Whorton, Brandon Rains and David Fisher face an Oct. 21 trial with Barber on separate fraud and money laundering charges.

Another northwest Arkansas developer didn’t live long enough to be indicted. Gary Combs, who died last year in California at age 59, was the individual described in the Barber, Whorton and Rains indictment as “a person known to the grand jury,” documents suggest and sources have confirmed to Arkansas Business

Each of the five co-defendants became acquainted with Barber at different times in the years leading up to the alleged crimes. Their relationships with Barber, who is in the Washington County Detention Center awaiting trial, have been under investigation since at least 2011.

Through interviews, research of public records, online profiles and past articles, Arkansas Business looks at each co-defendant’s role in the case and their lives before the charges.

James Van Doren

Exactly when James Van Doren and Brandon Barber became personally and professionally connected is unclear, but their acquaintance may date back to high school. Both graduated high school in 1994 and were class presidents in the Jonesboro area — Van Doren at Nettleton High and Barber at Jonesboro High.



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