Banner Year in Arkansas: The Top 10 Business Stories of 2013

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013 12:00 am  

Limping through this year, Allens attempted to improve its working capital and was in talks with a “third party to secure an equity investment,” Hickman said in a report filed with the bankruptcy case.

Hickman said the management team worked hard to improve Allens’ books, but it continued to struggle. He said the company’s only option was to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and hope to find a buyer or investor or to restructure its debt.

8. Loan Fraud Fallout

2013 was the year when the slow wheels of justice finally caught up with some of the excesses before and during the Great Recession.

None of the stories was bigger than that of northwest Arkansas developer Brandon Barber and his circle of associates. None was more tragic than the downfall of Layton “Scooter” Stuart, owner of Little Rock’s One Bank & Trust.

Barber, now 37 and incarcerated in the Washington County jail, was the common denominator in two federal indictments issued by grand juries in March. It had taken two and a half years for charges to be filed after a bankruptcy judge essentially accused Barber of bankruptcy fraud, but then it took prosecutors only eight months to secure convictions against five of the men and for a jury to acquit the sixth.

Pleading guilty were Barber, Jeff Whorton, Brandon Rains and James Van Doren. A Fort Smith jury in November found K. Vaughn Knight, Barber’s former attorney, guilty of several charges. Knight has asked for a new trial.

David Fisher, a Rogers attorney accused of conspiring with Barber, Rains and Whorton, was acquitted in October.

None of the convicted felons has been sentenced. One more co-conspirator, former northwest Arkansas developer Gary Combs, died in 2012.

In Little Rock, 2013 brought more details of alleged self-dealing at One Bank that allowed Scooter Stuart to

maintain an opulent lifestyle. Federal agents raided his west Little Rock home in February, and a month later Stuart was dead after at least two recent episodes related to a heart condition.

In June, Uncle Sam seized assets that included his family’s luxury cars and a $17.6 million life insurance payout that was to go to a trust set up to benefit his wife and two grown children.

Alleged loan fraud orchestrated by Stuart tainted Little Rock homes owned by his son and daughter. Money from the sale of her house was frozen in July, and his Pleasant Valley manor was forfeited to One Bank in August.



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