District Court

A North Carolina man has entered a guilty plea in a South Arkansas wire fraud case.

Sentencing will be held at a future date for a North Carolina man who has been found guilty of one federal count of wire fraud in a Camden hotel construction case.

Joseph Preston “Buster” Hill recently entered the plea in U.S. District Court in El Dorado. He is president of Buster Hill Renovations, Inc., (BHR) of Midland, NC.

Hill held a contract with InterMountain Renovation Consultants LLC of Monroe, LA, to renovate a Holiday Inn Express in Camden. IRC made a contract with the hotel’s owner, Shinn Shinn II, LLC, to manage the renovation on Shinn Shinn’s behalf.

According to documents filed as part of the case, federal prosecutors alleged that Hill devised a scheme to ultimately steal $102,195.72. From December 2017 to March 28, 2018, at Hill’s request, the victims began providing Hill’s company with funds that were supposed to be used for construction materials at the hotel.

The government alleges that Hill used the funds to pay for his daughter’s wedding, satisfy an outstanding tax debt, and for other personal expenses not related to the construction project.

“Because Hill diverted $102,195.72 of the victims’ money to his own use, BHR did not pass that amount through to numerous supplies who were owned for labor and materials on the Camden project. Of the $103,195.72 that Hill diverted, approximately 80 percent was owned to just three such suppliers,” said the government’s information.

The statement names the three victimized contractors by their initials – H.S. LLC, E.C.M., and C.T. Ltd.

The “wire fraud” aspect of the charge springs from Hill’s use of emails sent from Camden to IRC’s Monroe office. Each of the emails contained a file entitled “Waiver and Release of Lien.” Each such release appears to have been executed by representatives of the three suppliers but they were, in fact, forgeries.

“Each release purports to waive any lien the named supplier might have asserted against the Camden hotel property for materials supplied to-date. Each of those releases was a forgery. The named suppliers did not execute them, because they had not been paid. Instead, Hill had an unknown person falsely sign as a representative of each of the three named suppliers, after which Hill copied the forged signatures onto the supposed releases.

“Hill then transmitted the forged releases to IRC by email with the intent to misleading the victims into believes that BHR has used their money to pay suppliers, when in fact Hill had diverted $102,195,72 of that money to his own use. The victims eventually learned from the named suppliers that the lien releases were forged, and that much of the money they had give to BHR had not been used as Hill had represented. Having discovered this, the victims were still obligated to pay all of the unpaid suppliers for their services, including named suppliers,” the document said.

Another document details a telephone interview between Hill and Special Agency Ryan Blanton of the FBI’s El Dorado Resident Agency. Hill admitted in the recorded conversation that he had misappropriated some of the funds for the Camden project by paying suppliers only partially. Hill agreed that he owned IRC a substantial amount of money, concurring with Blanton’s estimate of $100,000.

In addition to restitution, Hill faces a maximum term of 20 years’ imprisonment, a maximum fine of $250,000, or both. He will also have supervised release for up to three years following his sentence.

Hill is free on $5,000 bond pending sentencing.

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