Brandon Barber Set To Be Sentenced In Fraud Conviction

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FORT SMITH (KFSM) – The former Northwest Arkansas developer convicted in a $200 million fraud scheme is scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday (Oct. 28) before a federal judge in Fort Smith.

Brandon Barber pleaded guilty in federal court last year to three criminal counts, reaching a deal with prosecutors in the case for a maximum 45-year sentence.

Barber’s sentencing hearing is set to begin at 9 a.m. before Chief District Judge P.K. Holmes in the Judge Isaac C. Parker Federal Building at 30 S. 6th St. After the sentencing hearing, which is expected to last about two hours, U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge is scheduled to hold a news conference at his office on Parker Avenue across the street from the federal courthouse.

Barber appeared in federal court in Fort Smith last year, pleading guilty to two counts of fraud and one count of money laundering, in exchange for the remaining 24 federal counts being dismissed, Eldridge said at the time.

Other suspects named as co-defendants in the case have also pleaded guilty.

Eldridge said the maximum prison time for Barber’s conviction is 45 years behind bars, to be determined at Tuesday’s sentencing.

(Click here and here to see the news release from prosecutors on the plea deal)

Barber had faced 27 counts of various federal charges, including fraud and money laundering.

Barber has been behind bars at the Washington County Detention Center since June 2013, after Fayetteville federal court Judge Erin Setser found that the defendant had repeatedly violated the terms of his home detention, which he had been under since his initial arrest in March 2013.

Barber was arrested 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 have 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.

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.

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.