FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – A jury in Tarrant County last week sentenced a general contractor to three years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine for committing construction fraud. This is believed to be the first time that such a case has reached a jury in Tarrant County.
Keith Baxter Alexander was found guilty of falsifying payment applications and cheating sub-contractors out of thousands of dollars.
The 54-year-old contractor was hired in 2006 to oversee construction at a Fort Worth car dealership. Prosecutors said that Alexander submitted payment applications to the dealership’s owner each month, claiming that he had been paying sub-contractors to complete various jobs related to the construction project. However, those sub-contractors were not being paid in full, or at all.
The dealership’s owner realized what was happening when a sub-contractor approached him seeking payment of about $100,000.
According to prosecutors, this was not the first time that Alexander has cheated sub-contractors out of payment. Several lawsuits have been filed against him by sub-contractors attempting to recover their losses. Each time, Alexander files for bankruptcy to avoid paying and then starts another construction company.
Prosecutors noted that Alexander did the same thing in this instance, filing for bankruptcy after the car dealership job and continuing to work under a new company name. “We are tired of seeing the little guys left holding the bag,” said Tarrant County District Attorney Joe Shannon.
A release sent out by the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office called the construction industry “fraught with fraud,” noting that it is common to hear about contractors falsifying payment applications, billing for unpaid work, manipulating change orders or stealing materials.
These are all illegal practices, but most cases are settled with plea agreements. They rarely lead to prison time.
“These types of cases happen all over Texas,” said prosecutor Sid Mody, “but we are lucky in Tarrant County in that we have the ability to stop individuals like Keith Alexander.”
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