More contractors being exposed in Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Swindle…
10:03 AM EDT on May 23, 2022
Late last month, in an article about the state abruptly terminating the Swadley's Foggy Bottom contract, I hinted that people may want to investigate some of the subcontractors Swadley hired to do work on the project, especially if they also worked on some of Swadley's personal home improvement projects.
Here's the snippet:
I’m not a forensic accountant or property lawyer, but if Swadley used money that the state claims may have come “through fraudulent activity” to fund improvements at his ranch, I guess that means… well… I’m honestly not sure what it means.
Either way, if the state hasn’t looked already, they may want to poke around the wood chips to see if any of the contractors who worked on the Swadley Ranch also did work on Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen. Just like a Swadley’s dining room, you never know what’s hiding under the table.
Well, it looks like somebody found something hiding under the table!
Although it doesn't involve Swadley's ranch, NonDoc's Matt Patterson reported last week that Premier Custom Homes – a contractor who tacked on a mysterious $20,000 "vendor fee" for work they did on a Foggy Bottom location – also constructed Brent Swadley's son's new house.
This is notable because...
A) Swadley's kids are involved in the family's Foggy Bottom business...
B) It provides further evidence that Swadley was letting his contractor buddies profit from the alleged scheme by awarding them no-bid contracts, creating a massive conflict of interest that's ripe for possible fraud and abuse, and further lining his pockets with costly and greasy contract management fees.
Via Non Doc:
One of the subcontractors hired by Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen to renovate state park restaurants in 2021 was simultaneously in the process of completing construction on the home of a Swadley family member, according to state and county records.
Between August 2020 and April 2021, Premier Custom Homes built the house of Koltan Swadley, son of Swadley’s BBQ owner Brent Swadley. The 2,000-square-foot ranch-style home in Edmond is valued at $297,000, according to tax records.
Premier Custom Homes was also among the Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen subcontractors mentioned by Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency executive director Mike Jackson during the House Special Investigative Committee’s first meeting May 12....
“We did a case study on one vendor, Premier Custom Homes,” Jackson told legislators. “They had a $20,000 fee they charged on $53,000 in work. Once they did that, Swadley’s billed the OTRD for the $73,000 and then charged the consulting management fees.”..
[Programming Note: Read all of TLO's coverage of the Swadley's Foggy Bottom Swindle here.]
In addition to building Swadley's kid's home, Premier Custom Homes also constructed the Ardmore Swadley's. They did some work on the Enid location, too. Call me sane and rational, but something tells me Swadley didn't pay Premier Custom Homes a 37% "vendor fee" for any of that work, probably because it would have come out of Swadley's own pocket, and double-probably because it wasn't part of a possibly illegal scheme to collect inflated management fees from the state.
It would be interesting to get the Premier Custom Homes side of the story, but that won't be happening any time soon. The company's owner, Mark Abel, recently passed away. According to the Ogle Mole Network, he took his own life:
Premier Custom Homes shut down after its owner, Mark Abel, died in December 2021. The company’s website no longer exists, and its Google listing includes a “permanently closed” note. Its offices in Edmond are also closed.
Before we continue, I should probably acknowledge in full awkward disclosure that TLO has a weird and very unprofitable business connection with Mark Abel. My sincere condolences go out to his family, friends, and colleagues.
You see, in addition to being the guy who owned Premier Homes, Mark was also the creator of Boozy Bear – the teddy bear with the flask inside! I know this because they booked some ads and sponsored our trivia nights this past fall!
I didn't know Mark passed away until late January when – in response to a very direct email I sent about the company not paying any of their invoices and dodging my emails and phone calls – I got this email from a local law firm:
Well, it looks like that's one ad invoice that's not getting paid!
I only met Mark once. I had a quick meeting with him and the Boozy Bear marketing person once back in late August to pick up some Boozy Bear giveaways for our trivia nights, and nothing about the encounter struck me as odd or unusual. Well, outside of the fact I was picking up a dozen teddy bears with flasks hidden inside them. I don't think that ever will be ordinary.
Either way, Mark seemed like a normal dude who fit the look and bill of your typical contractor. It didn't cross my mind that 10 months later I'd be writing about his death and possible connection to an alleged scheme orchestrated by Brent Swadley to allegedly defraud taxpayers using his chain of Foggy Bottom Kitchens. If that was the case, I probably would have asked for upfront payment!
Weird personal connections to news stories I cover aside, it looks like Premier Custom Homes wasn't the only contractor with a part to play in this saga.
State Rep. Ryan Martinez – the lawmaker who seems the saltiest about the Swadley's Foggy Bottom Swindle – claims that other subcontractors have come forward to spill the BBQ beans all over the checkerboard tablecloth...
Martinez said he has heard from other subcontractors involved in the construction of Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen locations.
“I’ve had some whistleblowers who are subcontractors reach out to me who had some concerns about the way things were done,” Martinez said. “Even they thought there were some things being done that were not normal. People who had been in that business and who had been subcontractors elsewhere kind of thought, ‘Hold on a minute, something’s not right,’ so I absolutely think those conversations will continue. Some of those subcontractors want to remain anonymous because they’re scared, and I get it.”
Yep, as I mentioned in the past, it still looks like we're at the tip of the brisket on this scandal. If you're a subcontractor with stories to share (or novelty gift ideas to market), hit us up on tipline. Confidentiality guaranteed... with upfront payment.
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