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

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

In 2006 came the purchase of 40 building permits for a new subdivision on 20 acres in Springdale. A year later came the purchase of 49 lots in the Brentwood Subdivision of Cave Springs, just a few miles from the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport.

But it was the purchase of a 5,000-plus-SF home in Fayetteville from Brandon Barber that caught the attention of white-collar investigators. Jeff Whorton and his wife, Marshawn, purchased the Barber home in 2008 at a price of $1.5 million. Approximately two years later, they sold it for a reported $2 million to 3122 Township LLC, an entity that listed K. Vaughn Knight — the attorney who was by then representing Barber in his bankruptcy petition — as its registered agent and incorporator.

Buying and selling high-end homes is not, of course, a federal crime. But the indictment alleges that Jeff Whorton — like Rains and Combs — was involved in inflating the purchase prices in order to get bigger loans from First Federal Bank. The extra money was then divided up among the participants.

For allegedly transferring $550,000 to Combs’ Signature Bank account from Legacy Bank, Whorton faces a money-laundering charge in addition to a charge of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

Whorton is free on $50,000 cash bond. Attorneys W.H. Taylor and Stevan Vowell are representing Whorton in the fraud and money laundering case. “I have a long history of no comment in criminal cases,” Taylor said in an email to Arkansas Business.

Whorton Construction of Northwest Arkansas Inc. is incorporated with the Secretary of State’s Office listing Marshawn Whorton as incorporator.

Most of Jeff Whorton’s business ventures, including LLCs like Whorton Development, Whorton Properties and Whorton Realty, appear to be incorporated by his wife.

And it is Marshawn Whorton whose name appears on a lawsuit filed against Jonathan Shane Smith, owner of Wireless One Stop of Northwest Arkansas LLC, for an alleged breach of contract. At the heart of the lawsuit, filed in October 2011 and set for trial Aug. 28 is a claim that Smith did not live up to his end of the deal after obtaining a $480,000 loan from Marshawn Whorton so he could purchase a chain of local wireless stores.

Included in the back-and-forth between attorneys is a Dec. 4, 2012, attempt by Smith’s lawyer, J.R. Carroll of Kutak Rock, to get Marshawn Whorton to admit that the money for the loan was “obtained illegally” and then to specifically admit that it had been earned “through bookmaking, i.e., accepting wagers for sporting events.”

Whorton’s attorney, Marshall Ney of Mitchell Williams Selig Gates & Woodyard, responded on Jan. 2 by saying that the request for admission that the money was obtained illegally exceeded “the scope of proper discovery to the extent that it seeks information not relevant to any issue in the pending action. Plaintiff further objects to this request for admission to the extent it seeks a legal opinion, and therefore seeks information that is protected by the attorney work-product doctrine.”

As for the request for admission that the money was obtained through bookmaking?

“Plaintiff objects to this Request for Admission on the basis that it exceeds the scope of proper discovery to the extent that it seeks information not relevant to any issue in the pending action.”



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