by SEAN KIMMONS
Richard A. Humphrey, who allegedly gained the trust of the faithful to earn construction deals at three central Texas churches but abandoned the unfinished projects to escape with millions of dollars, is now a wanted man.
The 61-year-old CEO of Church Builders, Inc., based out of Ovilla just south of Dallas, failed to appear for court in June on first degree felony charges of theft of $200,000 or more and misapplication of fiduciary property of $200,000 or more, as well as class A misdemeanor charges of deceptive trade practices, court records say.
The Hays County Crimestoppers Web site has made him the top wanted suspect, offering an award of up to $1,000 for information leading to his arrest.
In 2006, the Word of Life Church in Kyle paid Humphrey almost $2 million to construct its new church at 400 Old Post Road. He left the project at 50 percent complete, with $128,000 in unpaid bills to subcontractors, court records say.
“He built our trust up and walked out,” Pastor James Jacobs said Monday. “When he left, he left us in pretty bad shape.”
Jacobs said that much of the construction work was substandard, costing the church another $1 million.
“It’s been a real challenge but we’re holding faith,” he said. “We could have walked away but we’ve held on.”
The church opened for services in December 2008. However, the building is still not entirely completed. There are plans to construct the upstairs area into offices, a computer lab and storage, Jacobs said.
He hopes to recover some of the funds his congregation lost once Humphrey resurfaces.
“Right now we’re pursuing a lawsuit,” he said. “We just want to make sure he doesn’t do it to anybody else.”
The Kyle United Methodist Church has a similar experience and filed a civil lawsuit in January 2008 against Humphrey and his partners Randy Beckett and Amy Humphrey.
The suit claims that Humphrey obtained more than $564,000 of a $600,000 project to create a 6,400 square foot annex building to the church in February 2007. Again, Humphrey abandoned the project at 50 percent complete and kept the money.
Further, the suit alleges negligence, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, fraud, statutory fraud, fraud by nondisclosure, violation of the Texas Property Code, conversion, violation of the Theft Liability Act, violation of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and conspiracy.
In February, all three defendants filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Soon after, Austin-based attorney John White, who is representing the KUMC, filed an objection to discharge, requesting that the church’s lawsuit not be thrown out as part of the bankruptcy proceedings, court records say.
White and Humphrey’s attorney, Jason Ankele of the Dallas-based firm Sullivan & Cook, LLC, could not be reached for comment.
The lawsuit also revealed that For His Glory Christian Fellowship near Pflugerville paid Humphrey and his corporation, then called Church Contractors, Inc., $683,000 out of a $912,000 contract in 2004. Humphrey ditched the project with only the foundation slab and grade beams constructed.
The construction funds lender, American Church Mortgage Co., filed suit against For His Glory Christian Fellowship and Church Builders, Inc., to retrieve lost funds.
In 2008, the civil lawsuit was determined a non-suit and was cancelled, presumably in order for the criminal charges on Humphrey to proceed, court records say.
Hays County officials filed criminal charges against Humphreys in June.
Sean Kimmons is senior reporter at the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published.Email | Print