Brandon Barber Pleads Guilty to 3 Counts in Bank Fraud Case

by Chris Bahn and Lance Turner  on Wednesday, Jul. 31, 2013 2:25 pm  

Former northwest Arkansas developer Brandon Barber, left, pleaded guilty to three counts on Wednesday. One co-defendant, Brandon Rains, had also scheduled a change of plea, but that hearing was canceled and Rains' jury trial is again scheduled for Oct. 21.

Former northwest Arkansas developer Brandon Barber entered guilty pleas to three counts Wednesday in federal court in Fort Smith, changing previously entered not-guilty pleas in a pair of federal indictments pending against him.

Barber, 37, had faced 27 counts in schemes that provided false documents and information about loans and real estate to banks including Legacy National Bank of Springdale and Metropolitan National Bank of Little Rock. On Wednesday, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bankruptcy fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and money laundering.

The court dismissed the remaining 24 counts.

The maximum penalty for conspiracy to commit bankruptcy fraud is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for conspiracy to commit bank fraud is 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The maximum penalty for money laundering is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Barber, wearing an orange and white jail jumpsuit, appeared in court with his attorneys, W. Asa Hutchinson III and Asa Hutchinson of the Asa Hutchinson Law Group in Rogers. Asa Hutchinson III said Barber's sentencing would take place after two other trials involving co-defendents charged on the same indictments.

Barber has been in the Washington County jail for more than a month after his bond was revoked for repeatedly violating the terms of his release. He said little during the hearing. He told U.S. District Judge P.K. Holmes that he is working on getting a master's degree. 

Once the case reaches the sentencing phase, Holmes can consider a number of factors, including sentencing guidelines and a defendant’s willingness to testify against others involved in the case. Barber's plea agreement requires him to cooperate with all investigations and to testify as requested by the government.

Although the number of charges against him was reduced from 27 to three, when it comes time for sentencing, "relevant conduct" - which includes the dismissed charges - can be considered. It isn't clear from the plea agreement just how much Barber's victims lost, which may be a factor in his sentence.

More: Read the plea agreement (PDF).

Arkansas Business reported Monday that a change of plea was scheduled. On Wednesday, Asa Hutchinson III said his client has "accepted responsibility and he's remorseful."

"Brandon came to the conclusion on his own, voluntarily, that the right thing to do is take responsibility and plead guilty," Asa Hutchinson III said. "... Nothing dictated the timing other than natural development of Brandon's thought process." 

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Western District U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge said prosecuting crimes that grew out of the financial boom in northwest Arkansas was a priority for his office.



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