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

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

At the heart of the push for that Music City development and a similar one in Fayetteville was 26-year-old Brandon Rains, project manager for the Barber Group. It was Rains who received credit in published reports for convincing Nashville to approve the massive hotel.

Rains worked alongside Brandon Barber during the developer’s brief heyday, even garnering a spot on the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 list in 2007.

Rains, a 2004 University of Arkansas graduate, told the NWABJ that he was working for a title company when he became acquainted with Barber. That interaction led to Rains joining the Barber Group and eventually becoming one of the key figures in the company’s effort to drastically alter the skylines in Fayetteville and Nashville. (Neither project ever got beyond the planning stages, although a separate development group announced late last year is considering the same Nashville location for its own hotel.)

During his time working with Barber, Rains co-founded the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce’s Young Pro-fessionals Group and served as a mentor to other local business people, according to his 40 Under 40 profile.

But Rains’ ties to Barber, federal prosecutors allege, didn’t dissolve along with the Barber Group.

Rains, now 32, is charged with being part of “a multi-party, multi-property set of real estate transactions” that led to money loaned by First Federal Bank of Harrison being divided among himself, Barber, Jeff Whorton and “a person known to the grand jury” — that is, Gary Combs. Properties involved include homes owned by Barber and Whorton, property at Market Square in Springdale and the Old Missouri Office Building in Springdale.

On Oct. 1, 2008, Rains applied for a loan in the amount of $1 million to cover the $745,000 purchase price and then to finish construction of a property located at Market Square in Springdale. Rains personally guaranteed the loan and transferred $100,000 from an account with Arvest Bank to First Federal to cover interest and other costs associated with the loan.

But, according to federal prosecutors, the purchase price was actually lower than the $745,000 represented to the bank, and excess funds from the loan went into a pool that was divided up by the co-defendants. While the indictment gives little detail, it suggests that the $100,000 that Rains transferred from his Arvest account to First Federal was actually money derived from the fraudulent loan from First Federal.

For his part in the scheme, Rains is charged with one count of bank fraud and one count of money laundering. Bank fraud carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, while the maximum penalty for money laundering is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Rains, who currently operates a property management company in Springdale and has at least seven assorted businesses incorporated with the Secretary of State’s office, is free on a $10,000 cash bond. Little Rock attorney J. Blake Hendrix is representing Rains and did not respond to questions submitted via email.

Jeff Whorton

Through Whorton Construction of Northwest Arkansas Inc. and several limited partnerships that are no longer in good standing with the Secretary of State’s office, Jeff and Marshawn Whorton were involved in a number of notable real estate transactions in 2006 and 2007.



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