Icon (Close Menu)


Process Server Relates ‘Look of Terror’ on Face of Bond Scammer Kevin Lewis

10 min read

A version of this article originally appeared in Arkansas Business on March 14, 2011. It is being republished as part of Arkansas Business’ 30th anniversary issue. You can access the digital edition for free here.

Kevin Lewis wasn’t a high-profile guy until he started attracting lawsuits and the attention of federal investigators in connection with allegations of bank fraud involving multiple lenders.

The exposure of his special improvement district bond scheme triggered lender lawsuits tied to more than $23 million in outstanding debt amassed by Lewis and his various entities.

The financial damage tops $50 million when including bogus bond sales, which caused the demise of First Southern Bank of Batesville and embarrassed Home BancShares Inc. of Conway.

His alleged misdeeds have turned the 42-year-old businessman into a federal indictment waiting to happen. Meanwhile, lenders continue their pursuit of Lewis hoping to lay claim to whatever assets can be found.

Andy Myers, owner of Attorney’s Service Inc. in Little Rock, is among a posse of process servers hired by banks to track down Lewis and keep their litigation and hopes of some financial recovery moving forward.

The day-to-day whereabouts of Lewis might be as enigmatic as the man, but Myers can tell you where Lewis was on Feb. 3. That’s the day he caught up with Lewis at his parents’ home in Searcy.

“You could see the look of terror on his face when I pulled into the driveway,” said Myers, a 16-year veteran of professional hide-and-go-seek.

Perhaps Lewis thought the court-appointed process server and private detective was an upset creditor in search of confrontation. That’s not such a paranoid concern either.

Jay Sutterfield, owner of Controlled Environmental Solutions Inc. of Russellville, showed up at Lewis’ west Little Rock law office angry and unannounced late last year.

Sutterfield’s company was owed $79,000 for asbestos removal on a remodeling/expansion project in Searcy for Lewis and First Southern Bank, of which Lewis was the largest shareholder. The contract, signed with Lewis’ Incrementum Properties LLC, was completed on Oct. 14.

Sutterfield said he had never before been stiffed on a job and he intended to keep that record intact when he brushed past the receptionist in search of Lewis.

“Someone bailed out the back door,” Sutterfield said. “That’s as close as I ever got to meeting Kevin Lewis.”

Myers tried the direct approach, too, also without success. Lewis couldn’t be found at his office and never seemed to be at home when Myers first began his search in earnest during January.

He was able to serve summons on Lewis’ Signature Car Rental Jan. 25 by visiting the Little Rock law office of Tim Dudley, registered agent for the limited liability company.

But Dudley wasn’t authorized to accept service for Lewis himself or any of his other businesses. That led Myers back to west Little Rock, where his clients authorized him to set up surveillance on Lewis’ grand home on Chenal Circle.

There were promising reports of Lewis seen sneaking out his backyard and emerging through a neighbor’s driveway to a vehicle parked on the street several houses away.

Lewis’ Living Quarters

Kevin Lewis’s housing stock improved between 1994 and 2007.

  • 900-SF condo on the fifth floor of Little Rock’s Quapaw Tower
    Bought for $51,000 on May 1, 1994. Sold for $116,000 on Feb. 14, 2003.
  • 4,200-SF house in Searcy’s Club West Estates neighborhood
    Bought the newly built home for $201,000 on Dec. 17, 1997. An adjoining lot was purchased for $21,000 on Jan. 20, 1998.

    The five-bedroom, five-bath house and lot were sold for $378,000 on April 6, 2007.

  • 42 Chenal Circle in west Little Rock
    Bought for $1.2 million on Feb. 22, 2007, in a state of partial renovation.

    Listed at 6,724 SF on the Pulaski County property tax rolls, but sources familiar with the residence indicate it is substantially larger. The home was expanded with the aid of a $995,225 loan from Liberty Bank.

    The mansion secured a $2.5 million mortgage held by Capital Bank. Two of Lewis’ bogus bonds were accepted as additional collateral.

    Larry Middleton, through Blast 5 LLC, bought the Capital Bank note for an unknown sum on Dec. 29, 2010. Lewis relinquished any claim to the residence on Jan. 13.

Troubled House

Back in 2007 when he first walked through the front door of the Chenal house, Lewis turned to a reliable source of cash for the needed $1.2 million to buy the residence. He allegedly created paperwork for $2 million worth of bogus special improvement district bonds, which he used as collateral to borrow the money from Liberty Bank of Jonesboro.

The paper trail of lawsuits and real estate documents indicates that after Lewis bought the residence, he borrowed an additional $995,225 to finish remodeling and expanding the house.

The Chenal mansion is just one piece of a puzzle of leveraged assets, both real and phantom, that Lewis assembled with the aid of bogus special improvement district bonds.

The Liberty Bank construction loan isn’t on the roster of lender litigation filed against Lewis. That debt was repaid, thanks to a $1.99 million loan from Little Rock’s Capital Bank.

By the time his bond scheme was uncovered last year, the Capital Bank mortgage on the palatial residence had grown to $2.5 million thanks to the additional collateral of more bogus bonds.But Lewis is still on the hook for the original $1.2 million from Liberty Bank used to buy the house in the first place.

Myers is sure Lewis was hiding out in the home to avoid service on Liberty Bank’s lawsuit to recover the funds, as well as other creditors. But Myers wasn’t able to catch him during January before the family was forced to move out ahead of a foreclosure by Capital Bank.

Myers believes he nearly caught Lewis on Feb. 2 at his parents’ home in Searcy. His visit to the home that day led to a surprising confrontation with Lewis’ father, Harold. The elder Lewis lost his cool with Myers while debating how long his son’s car had been parked at the house. Harold Lewis said the vehicle had been there for more than a week, but Myers retorted that couldn’t be true because he had seen it at Kevin’s Chenal house only a few days ago.

“It made him so mad that he tried to put his hands around my neck,” Myers said. “It wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. I left it alone. I was just trying to serve papers on his son.”

Myers did contact Searcy police about the incident. But he wasn’t trying to get the elder Lewis arrested. His thought was the arrival of the cops might flush Kevin Lewis out of hiding.

“I knew he was in the house,” Myers said. “I was hoping me calling the police would encourage Kevin to come out to defend his dad, but it didn’t work.”

The 35-year-old had empathy for Lewis’ father and didn’t feel threatened by a man twice his age.

Myers could only imagine how he would react if the roles were reversed and it was his only child who was in so much trouble after deceiving so many people.

A month later, Myers is on the lookout for Kevin Lewis again. He has more service work to do.

The Dramatic Search for Kevin Lewis

On Dec. 15: Andy Myers, manager of Attorney’s Service Inc. in Little Rock, took on the assignment of serving summonses on Kevin Lewis for a string of lawsuits filed by lenders. The private investigator and court-appointed process server began his search in Little Rock but was led to Searcy when things began heating up on Feb. 2. Here’s an excerpt from his log of events:

Feb. 2: At about 11 a.m., Myers arrives at the Searcy home of Kevin Lewis’ parents and spots a familiar vehicle and trailer he had seen in Little Rock at Lewis’ Chenal Valley home.

“I saw an older man in the garage as I approached the residence. He shut the garage door in my face. I knocked on the door for about five minutes and got no answer.

“The Ford Five Hundred, which is licensed to Shared Administrative Services of which Kevin Lewis is president, the same car I saw at 42 Chenal Circle on Friday, Jan. 28, is parked in front of the house and the furniture trailer is behind the garage here at the parent’s house.

“I was sitting in my car deciding what to do when Harold Lewis [father of Kevin Lewis] came outside. He first denied that Kevin was around, and I pointed out that his car that I saw at the Chenal home is here along with the trailer. He said the car had not moved from his driveway in over a week.

[Myers told him that couldn’t be true because he’d seen the car and trailer at Kevin’s Chenal Valley home in Little Rock less than a week ago.]

“This made him very angry, and he attempted to put his hands around my neck. I backed away from him and called 911.

“Police came and basically did nothing. I did not want to press charges. I just wanted to serve papers on his son. The police officer said no problem, and I told them I would be doing surveillance on them looking for Kevin Lewis. The police left.

“I set up surveillance down the road. About 20 minutes later, Harold Lewis left in the Ford Five Hundred. He drove out into the country, making a few turns. I could not tell where I was. He ended up at a house that is being built in the Shady Grove Subdivision outside Pangburn and Searcy … .

“I could probably find it driving around if need be. Harold Lewis did not go into the house. He walked up to the door. It was locked, and he left. There was a house a few doors down where [there was] a U-Haul truck the same size as the one at 42 Chenal Circle that is moving furniture in a house, but Harold Lewis was leaving, and I followed him back to Searcy.

“At 1:30 p.m., I dropped surveillance to switch vehicles. I arrived in Little Rock at 2:30 p.m.

Feb. 3: Myers wonders if the trip to the Shady Grove house was an attempt to mislead him, so he heads back to Searcy to watch for signs of Kevin Lewis at his parents’ house.

“At 11:15 a.m., as I was arriving to set up surveillance, I saw a white car backing out of the garage, so I passed the residence and turned around. The vehicle is coming in my direction. I can see a male about 40 years old with a beard and shaggy hair driving and Harold Lewis is in the passenger seat.

“I pulled out behind them. They go about a quarter mile and turn around. I can see the driver again. I cannot turn around quick enough to catch up to them, so I set up surveillance down the road.

“About 25 minutes later, the same white car, a Mercedes, turns in the driveway with two males in the car. I see Kevin Lewis again in the car.

“I followed the car to the garage. Harold gets out on the passenger side where he can close the garage door once the car pulls in.

“I got out of my car and shouted ‘I see Kevin Lewis in that car and, if it is not him, let me see some ID; otherwise, Kevin Lewis is served.’

“The man in the driver’s seat would not turn and look at me. Harold looked at me as the door shut. I shouted, “Kevin Lewis is served” and set the papers down in the driveway.

“At 11:40 a.m., Kevin Lewis was served at 1705 N. Maple St., Searcy, AR 72143. His description is white male with shaggy hair and beard, approximately 40 years of age. I departed. I arrived in Little Rock at 12:40 p.m.”

Kevin Lewis Entities  
Named in Bond Suits Formed
Lewis Law Firm P.A. Sept. 22, 1993
Southtrust Development LLC April 18, 1996
Gulfstream Asset Management LLC May 18, 2001
Dealer Lending LLC Feb. 18, 2004
Signature Car Rental LLC Aug. 12, 2004
Fieldstone Townhomes of Cabot LLC Dec. 22, 2005
Merchant Capital Finance Inc. Aug. 31, 2007
Signature Motors Inc. Aug. 31, 2007
Involved With Real Estate  
Community Development Group LLC May 1, 1996
Emerald Properties I Ltd. Sept. 17, 1997
Emerald Realty Group LLC Sept. 17, 1997
Southpointe Realty Group LLC Sept. 9, 1998
Emerald Properties II Ltd. July 13, 2001
Community Resorts of Fayetteville Arkansas LLC Oct. 10, 2001
Lux Realty Management LLC June 25, 2003
The Falls at Stonecreek LLC Aug. 18, 2008
Incrementum Properties LLC April 16, 2009
Kanis Plaza LLC March 25, 2010
Aircraft Services Group LLC March 26, 1997
Benchmark Clothiers Inc. Feb. 25, 2002
Louisiana 1 LLC May 24, 2006
The Foundation for International Legal Affairs Inc. Nov. 7, 1991
The Panther Foundation July 31, 1996

Since Then …

2014: Kevin Lewis pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud in federal court on Aug. 3, 2011, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He began serving his time on April 17, 2012. His $40 million-plus fraud was the largest ever prosecuted in Arkansas.

The largest loss, $22.7 million, was suffered by First Southern Bank of Batesville, where Lewis became a majority shareholder through fraud.

First State Bank of Lonoke loaned Lewis $7.6 million secured by what would become worthless First Southern stock. First Southern was shut down by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in December 2010 and its operations sold to Southern Bank of Poplar Bluff, Mo.

Other banks and their losses included: Centennial Bank of Conway, $5.64 million; Allied Bank of Mulberry, $3.25 million; First Community Bank of Batesville, $2.08 million; Liberty Bank of Arkansas, $1.37 million; Citizens State Bank of Bald Knob, $894,628; Regions Bank of Birmingham, Ala., $541,579; Bank of Augusta, $442,225; and Simmons First National Bank of Pine Bluff, $361,583.

The FDIC sued BKD LLP of Springfield, Mo., in 2013. The agency, which uncovered Lewis’ fraud in fall 2010, alleged the accounting firm should’ve discovered the scheme as early as mid-2009 while examining First Southern’s books.

Send this to a friend