Skip to comments.Reyes out of prison in May? (Andrew Reyes ~ the story continues)
Posted on 01/19/2005 3:07:35 PM PST by Zacs Mom
Judge lowers sentence of ex-county Democratic chairman by 17 months.
Andrew Reyes, the former Mecklenburg Democratic chairman convicted in one of Charlotte's biggest embezzlements, could be out of prison in May after a federal judge trimmed nearly a year and a half off his sentence.
Sources say the reduction is likely due to his cooperation in an ongoing investigation.
U.S. Chief District Judge Graham Mullen didn't handle Reyes' case and would not talk about it specifically. But Mullen, asked when federal judges can cut sentences, said: "The only way a judge can reduce a sentence is if the government moves to reduce the sentence for substantial assistance."
Reyes faced up to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to multiple counts of bank fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy. The charges relate to his involvement with a Charlotte construction company and his personal dealings with one of the company's officers.
In December 2003, U.S. District Judge Lacy Thornburg sentenced him to 57 months, almost five years, after prosecutors praised his cooperation. Now Thornburg has cut the sentence to 40 months, or just over three years.
The reduction comes as two of Reyes' former associates await sentencing on related charges. In October, the company they all worked for, United Building Contractors, settled a civil suit by agreeing to pay the Internal Revenue Service $23.3 million in back taxes and penalties.
UBC was virtually the exclusive builder for the United House of Prayer for All People, one of the nation's largest African American denominations. One former company official estimated that over about a decade UBC billed the church for more than $400 million.
Reyes was arrested at the Mexican border in October 2002 after having disappeared from Charlotte for 17 months. Three months later, he pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with authorities investigating what they called a conspiracy with two UBC officers to evade millions of dollars in federal taxes.
Last July, company President Jim Myers pleaded guilty to cheating the government out of $17 million. He also acknowledged siphoning more than $32 million from his company, according to papers filed in federal court.
According to court documents, Myers ordered his accountants to set up project accounts "to account for nothing more than his personal expenses."
In March, accountant Joel Wilson, Reyes' former associate at UBC, pleaded guilty to conspiring to evade up to $5 million in federal taxes. Wilson's attorney, Ed Hinson, said his client "is cooperating with the government and is awaiting sentencing."
Myers also is waiting.
In 1972, the high school dropout from Mississippi met Doug King, who preached at tent revivals. The two began working as painting contractors and in 1981 started a remodeling business.
Around 1990, the pastor of a House of Prayer on Pegram Street in north Charlotte was desperate to find someone to fix the church's crumbling basement. Myers took the job, and his performance caught the eye of the denomination's leader, Bishop Walter McCollough. When the church launched a national building program, the bishop turned to Myers.
Over the next decade, UBC and associated companies built more than 150 churches and opulent parsonages for the bishop. The money rolled in.
Reyes, now 38, joined the company at 26 -- three years after filing personal bankruptcy. By 1998, he'd become a philanthropist. He gave generously to causes and politicians and bought a lifestyle that enabled him to hobnob with celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres.
In 1998, he was invited to a state dinner at the Clinton White House. A year later, Mecklenburg Democrats elected him their chairman.
All the while, he was involved in a complex web of schemes by UBC officials.
Reyes has been ordered to pay $3.6 million in restitution to the estate of King, who died in 2000. Reyes embezzled the money from King, who trusted Reyes to handle his personal finances.
Reyes currently is in a federal prison in Ashland, Ky. Because his latest sentence is expected to be further reduced through good behavior and an agreement to enter a halfway house, he could be released as early as May.
"He's been a model inmate," said his attorney, James Wyatt.
Claire Rauscher, a Charlotte defense attorney not involved in the case, said inmates can knock time off their sentences by entering a halfway house -- to which they return at night after working in the day. Reyes could decide to go to a halfway house anywhere in the country.
Wyatt declined to comment about Reyes' reduced sentence. So did Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Howard.
Just how much Reyes has cooperated with prosecutors is unclear.
Two court documents filed just days before Reyes' sentence was reduced have been sealed. Sources said they were likely sealed because they contain information about Reyes' cooperation with the inquiry that already has resulted in two guilty pleas.
-- JIM MORRILL: (704) 358-5059; JMORRILL@CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.COM. -- GARY L. WRIGHT: (704) 358-5052; GWRIGHT@CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.COM.
Andrew Reyes, the openly gay, former Mecklenburg County Democratic Chairman who staged a mysteriously disappearance in May of 2001, was "found" at a Mexico/California border crossing in Oct. 2002 and was convicted in Dec. 2003 of embezzling millions of $$$'s from one of his clients may be walking out of his cell at a minmum security facility in May 2005 ~ some 17 months earlier than his original sentence.
Reyes intially faced up to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to multiple counts of bank fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy. He was charged with stealing $3.6 million from accounting client Doug King, the now-deceased part-owner of United Building Contractors, a company Reyes had once worked for.
In December 2003, U.S. District Judge Lacy Thornburg sentenced Reyes to 57 months. Now the same judge has cut the sentence to 40 months.
The story of Andrew Reyes is one well worth taking note of ~ the following article appeared in the Charlotte Observer, June 24, 2001 and reveals some astounding facts about this corrupt little maggot's rise within the states Democratic ranks.
SUNDAY SPECIAL REPORT
THE MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF ANDREW REYES
After starting a new life in Charlotte, going from temporary worker to philanthropist, this businessman drove away and hasn't been heard from since
By JIM MORRILL AND DIANE SUCHETKA, Staff Writers
At 2 p.m. on May 4, accountant Andrew Reyes pushed himself up from a desk piled high with papers. Walking out of the office, he told assistant Emmanuel Barbe he was going home to pack his car, then leave for Boston to see a client. I'll call you, he told Barbe.
Reyes drove off in his new BMW. Three hours later, Barbe says, Reyes called and said he was tired of driving. As far as police know, it was the last time anybody heard from the 35-year-old Charlottean. Seven weeks later, they're still treating his disappearance as a missing person case.
It's the latest intrigue in an already mysterious life. In less than 10 years, Reyes rose from a temp worker to a philanthropist who donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to nonprofit and political groups. Along the way, he hobnobbed with TV stars and the president of the United States and was elected leader of Mecklenburg County's Democratic Party.
Now Reyes, an enigma even to friends, is evoking more questions than answers. Among those asking is a New Hampshire lawyer who believes Reyes could hold key information about the estate of one of his former accounting clients, an estate the lawyer says could be worth as much as $20 million.
Another question: Why did Reyes tell friends he'd be back in two or three weeks when signs suggest he never planned to return? And who was threatening his life?
Late last year, he told ex-lover Butch Barksdale that he'd received death threats. On Feb. 7, he gave Barksdale's father control of his money and property. A few weeks later, he handed the senior Barksdale his will, insurance papers and financial documents.
In April, Reyes and Butch Barksdale sold a Myers Park house they owned together. Records show they cleared $320,000. At the same time, Reyes moved ahead with plans to break up his accounting firm. Lane Williamson, the Barksdales' lawyer, says he was told Reyes also emptied two brokerage accounts.
"This was a person who was putting his affairs in order," says Williamson.
On any given day, 40,000 adult Americans are missing, says Kym Pasqualini, president of the Phoenix-based Center for Missing Adults. More than 90 percent are eventually found.
Well connected Reyes grabbed attention four years ago. During the city's heated debate over "Angels in America," a gay-themed play, he emerged as a voice for Charlotte's gay community. Afterward he launched a well-financed but brief run for county commissioner, and became a leader of the growing Hispanic community.
Since then, he has given $281,000 in political donations, mostly to the national Democratic Party and candidates, nurtured ties to Kennedys and Clintons, attended White House dinners and mingled with celebrities. He gave generously to causes and spent lavishly on friends. A day after Valentine's Day, he sent $2,000 worth of flowers to friends from Charlotte to Hollywood, including actress Ellen DeGeneres.
But parts of Reyes' life are as shadowy as his departure. Even friends never knew much about his background or exactly where he got his money. Few knew about an earlier bankruptcy, or that he has two Social Security numbers and claimed degrees from a college whose Louisiana "campus" consisted of a drawer at a Mailboxes Etc. He didn't need glasses but tinted his brown eyes with blue and green contacts.
"You only knew him as well as he wanted you to know him," says Rick Snoddy, a friend and business associate.
A new start
In 1989 Reyes was 23. And bankrupt.
In a Los Angeles bankruptcy court, he listed debts of $12,807. He had $183 in cash, $200 worth of clothes and an '87 Nissan. He soon got a new Social Security number, which, under most circumstances, is illegal.
The new number essentially cleared his credit record. Reyes met Barksdale in 1992. Tired of Los Angeles, Barksdale suggested they move to Charlotte to be closer to his family. They rented an east Charlotte apartment. Reyes drove a Chevy and did accounting work through a temp agency.
According to a resume he submitted to the governor's office, he also began working that year as controller for a commercial building company called United Building Contractors.
Bookkeeper Robyn Cromer, who worked for him in 1994, recalls Reyes "constantly crying about (how) he didn't have any money." But Reyes moved up at United Building. By 1996, he was treasurer.
The company, which built churches for the rapidly expanding United House of Prayer, grew fast. Reyes' business ventures multiplied. In 1996, he formed a construction and property companies. In 1997, he started Seyer Communications ("Reyes" spelled backward). A year later, he opened Wilson Reyes & Associates accounting firm, bought a Spanish-language newspaper and started a bilingual magazine. He continued doing the books for United Building Contractors on contract.
Reyes, says Barksdale, "worked his ass off." But how Reyes got his money is as unclear as where he learned accounting. His resume lists bachelor's and master's degrees in business and accounting from Louisiana-based Columbia State University and indicates work toward a Ph.D. The school offered degrees in 27 days until authorities shut it down in 1998.
As Reyes' investments grew, so did his profile. In 1998, he attended a White House dinner for Czech President Vaclav Havel. In 1999, Gov. Jim Hunt named him to his Advisory Council on Hispanic/Latino Affairs. That fall, Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, daughter of the late Robert Kennedy, spoke to a Charlotte rally at his request. And Reyes watched part of last year's Democratic National Convention from a skybox reserved for the national chairman.
Reyes claimed friendships with actors such as Jimmy Smits, Gloria Estefan and DeGeneres. On his office wall hung photos of him with celebrities, including Bill and Hillary Clinton and DeGeneres and her partner, actress Anne Heche. Last September, shortly after the actresses' publicized break-up, Reyes sent DeGeneres a $104 fruit basket.
"Dear El feel free to throw an orange across the room," he said in a note. "(It's) great stress relief." Such gestures were typical.
A few years ago, Snoddy was with Reyes in Los Angeles. As they browsed in a gift shop, Snoddy admired a crystal elephant. A few days later, he found it on his doorstep.
Reyes gave generously. To Mecklenburg's Democratic Party, $59,000. To the Black Caucus, $20,000. To the Latin American Coalition, $8,000 and free accounting. To the rector of St. Peter's Episcopal Church, an unsolicited $5,000 check. "He was the largest donor that we've ever had," says John Quillin, artistic director of One Voice, Charlotte's gay and lesbian chorus. "We have a lot of affection for Andrew. He's been there for us when other people weren't, and we could really count on him."
Things going wrong
But there were hints of trouble, business and personal. Reyes' newspaper and magazine failed in 1999. His credibility took a hit that year too. Shortly after John F. Kennedy Jr. died in a plane crash, Reyes told a reporter about a conversation he said he'd had with Kennedy two days before the crash in which Kennedy talked about his upcoming trip. Reyes also said that after the crash he commiserated with Kennedy's cousin, Patrick, in a phone call. He later retracted his statements, saying the conversations never happened.
That fall, Reyes' transactions with another Kennedy raised questions. When Townsend came to Charlotte, Reyes, along with three of his companies, several friends and employees, gave her campaign $40,000. Reporters questioned whether the corporate money, all coming from the same address, was Reyes' effort to give more than Maryland law allowed. Townsend campaign treasurer Jeffrey Liss returned $16,000. "We just wanted to avoid even the appearance of impropriety," he says.
Soon, Reyes' donations to nonprofits began falling short of what he had promised. Then, in May 2000, Reyes and Barksdale, companions for eight years, broke up.
A better package
About the time of his breakup, Reyes began reinventing himself again. He started working out five days a week with personal trainer Joe Roccanova at Georgetown Bodyworks & Body Rays on Thomas Avenue in Plaza Midwood.
He made phenomenal progress, more progress than anyone I've ever worked with," Roccanova said. So much progress that his before and after pictures still hang on a wall at the gym. Reyes, about 5 feet 4 inches, dropped from 150 to 122 pounds. His body fat melted from 20 percent to 10. "He was out to make himself more attractive to other people," the trainer says, "and I was out to help him."
Reyes also began taking voice lessons from Charlotte performer and musical director Aven Stephenson. For a year or so ending in April, the two met, usually weekly, in Reyes' home recording studio. Stephenson helped Reyes develop what he says was an already strong voice.
"Music was an outlet for him, a new challenge, and a new opportunity to develop his powerful talents," Stephenson says.
On Feb. 28, Reyes talked about his music over lunch with Jerry Klein at Providence Café. To Klein, then director of programming at the Great Aunt Stella Center, Reyes seemed depressed, still bothered by his break-up and by his approaching 35th birthday.
"Sitting across from me," says Klein, "was a man who was telling me he was tired and it was time for him to pull back and decide who he wanted to be at this point in his life."
Klein says Reyes promised the struggling Stella center $10,000, a donation yet to arrive. The following weeks, Reyes was busy. Cell phone records suggest he made two trips to New Orleans, returned to Charlotte for the county's April 21 Democratic convention, then traveled to L.A. and Washington. On May 3, the day before he disappeared, he drove to Greensboro. A day or two before he left, he talked to Debbie Warren, president and chief executive officer of the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network about a fund-raiser he was planning for the group this fall. He called it "An Evening With the Stars" and planned to invite DeGeneres and other stars.
I felt a gentle kind of quiet, giving spirit about him," Warren says. "I did feel that he was maybe spread too thin, that maybe he was trying to do too much, but he is a very generous person."
Reyes didn't like to drive. That's why his planned trip to Massachusetts surprised friends. He was going to visit a client named Laurel King. He shipped her nine file boxes the first week of May and told friends he had to drive to carry more. When Reyes still hadn't arrived at Laurel King's by May 8, four days later, she called his office, prompting Reyes' aide to notify police.
"All I know is, he didn't show up," King says. King and her husband, Douglas, used to live in Charlotte. Douglas King was part-owner of United Building Contractors. In 1995 or '96, he sold out to his partner, Jim Myers. Last September, Douglas King died in a motorcycle accident. New Hampshire attorney Rob Howard represents Douglas King's son from a previous marriage. Howard says Laurel King had valued her husband's estate at about $200,000. He says that may be too low by as much as $20 million.
One thing that appears to be missing, Howard says, is Douglas King's profits from the sale of the privately held United Building Contractors. Reyes, the company's former treasurer, had continued to keep its books. "I suspect the sale of the business generated rather a
considerable amount more than ($200,000), and that's what we'd like to find," says Howard. "Mr. Reyes may well be the best source of that information."
Company owner Myers could not be reached despite repeated attempts. His lawyer, Monroe Whitesides, says Myers will help in any efforts to determine King's estate.
June 13. The gas company drops a termination notice at Reyes' one-story brick house on Pinecrest Avenue. The papers Reyes signed in February giving the senior Barksdale power over his affairs are filed with the register of deeds, making them official. At the Cotswold offices of Wilson Reyes, file boxes are stacked in hallways. Bits of paper are scattered in front of a shredder. Partner Joel Wilson says he and Reyes planned to be out at the end of June after breaking up the business.
"We were just going in different directions," says Wilson, who met Reyes seven years ago when both worked for United Building Contractors. "He's always been very secretive. He always wanted his business to be his business."
June 21. A black, unmarked moving van pulls up in front of Reyes' house off Commonwealth Avenue. Movers clean out all the furniture, including Reyes' grand piano. Though there are no signs of forced entry, and locks had been changed days before, neither police nor Butch Barksdale can say who took the furniture or where it went. Rick Snoddy, Reyes' friend and United Building Contractors' lawyer, says he was recently talking about Reyes with a mutual friend. Maybe, the friend had confided, I don't know Reyes as well as I thought I did. "Welcome to the club," Snoddy replied.
Reyes' ex-partner pleads to millions in tax evasion
FBI inquiry into Reyes confirmed
Former Charlotte Democrat Official Who Gave Bundles of Stolen Money to the NC Democrat Party Returning to NC for Trial
Missing Charlotte businessman arrested at Mexico border
Reyes appears in court, attorney says his client was near breakdown
International Velvet (Reyes schmoozing at the White House)
Just another one of Bill Clinton's buddies.