Judge: Brandon Barber Must Return to Jail

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A federal magistrate determined Friday (June 14) that former Northwest Arkansas developer Brandon Barber will return to jail.

Barber is being taken to the Washington County Detention Center for violating the terms of his house arrest, Federal Magistrate Erin Setser ruled. The defendant's house arrest terms dictate Barber must receive permission from the court before leaving his home, but his bank account shows transactions at a New York wine bar and other restaurants during the time of his house arrest, according to a court order from Setser.

Barber, 37, was arrested in March in connection with a years-long investigation by federal agencies into fraud and money laundering allegations, whose potential maximum prison times for the 27 fraud counts could put Barber behind bars for the rest of his life. Prosecutors, the FBI and the IRS allege that Barber declared bankruptcy in 2009 after racking up $200 million in loans, then hid assets from the courts and creditors during the bankruptcy process.

Barber was sent by the Fayetteville federal court to the Washington County Detention Center on May 7 after the judge found the defendant did not have a permanent home in which to serve out his home detention restrictions. Barber’s permanent location for his home detention was later approved by the court as Foodim’s New York apartment she shares with Barber. He was released from jail May 13.

Roger lawyer David Fisher joins fellow Northwest Arkansas lawyer K. Vaughn Knight, whose office is in Fayetteville, as area attorneys indicted and accused of aiding Barber in his alleged multi-million scheme to accumulate debt, then declare bankruptcy and hide the profited money.

Fisher, Barber, and two other co-defendants, Jeff Whorton and Brandon Rains, have a trial set for Oct. 21 in federal court in Fort Smith, while Barber, Knight and James Van Doren have a separate trial set for Sept. 16, according to federal court documents.

Barber spent several days in the Washington County Detention Center last month, while the Fayetteville federal court and attorneys decided where Barber would live out his house arrest. He is currently under house arrest at his home in New York City.

Knight faces 11 counts of money laundering and fraud, the maximum penalty being 140 years in prison and $4 million in fines, according to court documents.

Rains was a project manager for Barber-managed Barber Group. He faces one count of money laundering and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. In 2007, Rains was named one of the 40 most intriguing business and political leaders under 40 years old in the Northwest Arkansas Journal.

According to indictment paperwork, Whorton, the owner of Whorton Construction of Northwest Arkansas, made several real estate purchases with Barber. He faces one count of money laundering and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

Barber’s offices used to be on Old Missouri Road, a building that housed several other tenants. Barber owned the building.

Barber sold this property to Whorton Construction of Northwest Arkansas for $1.65 million.

First Federal Bank of Harrison lent Whorton $2.1 million for the property, $450,000 more than the actual purchase price, according to indictment.

Barber’s house which was also sold to Whorton was listed in the indictment.

Less than a decade ago, Barber, then in his 20s, was one of the most sought-after developers in the Northwest Arkansas. He founded the Barber Group in Springdale and tackled several high-profile area projects such as the Legacy Building and the Bellafont condominiums in Fayetteville. He even proposed the 15-story Divinity Hotel in Fayetteville in 2006.

At the height of his local career, Barber would throw lavish parties at a hangar at the Springdale Municipal Airport, inviting hundreds of guests at a time.

Court records show that as the money flowed, Barber took on massive debt, taking out millions of dollars in loans from local banks. Litigation from the financial institutions ensued, and years later, several court cases by banks and area entities against Barber remain unresolved, according to Washington County Circuit Court records.

Attorney Bill Clark represents Arvest Bank, which entered in a lawsuit against Barber in 2008.

In debt and collecting lawsuits, Barber filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2009, but is accused of hiding his assets from creditors. A year later, he was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated for the second time in recent years, police records show. His development company also filed for bankruptcy, and he moved to New York.

Stay with 5NEWS for more on this developing story.