Contractor headed to prison in Tarrant County construction fraud

03/05/2014 8:55 AM

03/05/2014 8:56 AM

A general contractor found guilty of fraud is heading to prison in what prosecutors say is the first such case in Tarrant County to make it to a jury.

Tarrant County jurors needed just an hour to convict Keith Baxter Alexander, 55, of North Richland Hills of making a false statement to obtain property or credit.

The same jury then sentenced Alexander to three years in prison and assessed a $10,000 fine against him in a trial that ended last week.

Prosecutors said most construction fraud cases are settled with plea agreements with reduced punishment if the defendant agrees to make restitution.

Because he had never been convicted of a felony, Alexander faced a punishment that ranged from probation to 10 years in prison.

“We’re fortunate that our office has an economic crimes unit that has investigators who can follow long, and often confusing, paper trails,” said Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Sid Mody, who prosecuted the case along with Susan Linam. “These types of cases happen all over Texas, but we are lucky in Tarrant County in that we have the ability to stop individuals like Keith Alexander.”

Evidence in the case indicated that Alexander was the general contractor for a company called K.B. Alexander Co. of Texas in Haltom City in 2006 which was hired to oversee construction for a used car dealership in Fort Worth.

Each month, Alexander submitted payment invoices to the dealership owner seeking payment for completed work and claiming the work had been done by sub-contractors. The sub-contractors had not been getting paid the full amount, if at all, prosecutors said.

The fraud came to light after the construction was done and the dealership owner began to receive mechanics’ liens – claims made against property by a sub-contractor who supplied labor or materials for work on the property but did not get paid.

In all, seven liens totaling about $100,000 were filed against the dealership.

The owner of the dealership filed a complaint against Alexander and the investigation began.

During the punishment phase last week, jurors learned that Alexander had swindled other sub-contractors in the past and many had filed lawsuits against him to recoup their losses. To avoid paying, Alexander filed for bankruptcy, set up another business and resumed his career as a general contractor. He had recently been operating KBA Construction LTD in Arlington.

“We are tired of seeing the little guys left holding the bag,” Tarrant County District Attorney Joe Shannon said in a news release.

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