by SEAN KIMMONS
Almost six months after ditching a court date, alleged church swindler Richard A. Humphrey turned himself in at Grand Prairie near Dallas on Dec. 8, police said.
The 61-year-old CEO of Church Builders, Inc. 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.
In June, Humphrey failed to appear in court on first degree felony charges of theft of $200,000 or more and misapplication of fiduciary property of $200,000 or more, court records say.
The Hays County Crimestoppers website then posted him as a wanted suspect, offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to his arrest.
Despite the severity of the alleged crimes, Humphrey was magistrated at the Dallas County Justice of the Peace Pct. 4, Place 1 office and released on personal recognizance bonds that add up to $165,000, police said.
A warrant officer with the Hays County Sheriff’s Office traveled to Dallas and met with Humphrey to sign the appropriate paperwork. The Sheriff’s Office would not go into detail why Humphrey was not imprisoned.
“He has not been put in jail anywhere,” Sheriff’s Spokesperson Lt. Leroy Opiela said on Monday. “There are some extenuating circumstances that we can’t get into.”
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 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. “When he left, he left us in pretty bad shape.”
Jacobs said previously that he hopes to recover some of the funds his congregation lost from Humphrey.
“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 also filed a lawsuit in January 2008 against Humphrey and his partners Randy Beckett and Amy Humphrey.
The suit claims that Humphrey obtained more than $564,000 for a $600,000 project to create a 6,400-square-foot annex building to the Methodist 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.
The lawsuit also revealed that For His Glory Christian Fellowship near Pflugerville paid Humphrey and his corporation, at that time 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 February, Humphrey and his colleagues filed 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.
In 2008, the lawsuit was determined a non-suit and was cancelled, presumably in order for the criminal charges on Humphrey to proceed, court records say.
Sean Kimmons is senior reporter of the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published. It was reprinted here through a news partnership with The San Marcos Mercury.Email | Print