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Brandon Barber’s Co-Defendant Jeff Whorton Pleads Guilty

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Jeff Whorton, a co-defendant in one of two federal cases involving bankrupt northwest Arkansas real estate developer Brandon Barber, pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and money laundering.

Federal prosecutors in the Western District of Arkansas have now elicited guilty pleas from Barber and one co-defendant in each of the separate cases. On Friday, James Van Doren pleaded guilty to a single count of money laundering for helping Barber hide money from his creditors.

Whorton admitted conspiring with Barber and two other co-defendants, Brandon Rains and David Fisher, to inflate the value of real estate transactions in order to get bigger loans from First Federal Bank of Harrison. The additional money was then divided up among the conspirators, which included northwest Arkansas developer Gary Combs, who died in August 2012, before the indictments were handed down.

Click here to read Whorton’s plea agreement (PDF).

Combs, who was identified by Arkansas Business as the “unnamed co-conspirator” in the case in June, was finally named by prosecutors in court on Monday, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s report.

Rains and Fisher, who have pleaded not guilty, are scheduled for trial on Oct. 21. Rains had briefly scheduled a change-of-plea hearing for July 31 but backed out.

In the other case involving Barber, one co-defendant remains scheduled for trial: Fayetteville attorney K. Vaughn Knight. He and his attorneys have asked for a delay in the trial currently scheduled for Sept. 16.

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