Springdale business owner faces fraud, tax charges

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Robert E. Crawford, owner of a Springdale construction firm, faces charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, and preparing and filing false income tax returns, according to a criminal information dated Friday which appeared on the U.S. District Court docket today.

According to the charging document, Mr. Crawford runs R.E. Crawford Construction Inc., which was hired to build two malls for Simon Property Group -- one in Seattle, the other in Laguna Hills, Calif.

According to the filing, Mr. Crawford got the contracts with the help of a senior vice president of development at Simon, identified only as MP. Mr. Crawford then paid $766,000 to a business that MP created, according to the filing.

Mr. Crawford then submitted inflated bills to Simon for work done on the projects in 2006 and 2007, prosecutors allege. When Simon audited the records related to the Seattle project, Mr. Crawford instructed others to "create false records which would fraudulently overstate, by approximately $1 million, the actual costs incurred" by his business in relation to the project, the filings allege.

Mr. Crawford then falsified tax returns in 2006, 2007 and 2008, the filings allege.

Simon filed a lawsuit in 2008 alleged fraud by Mr. Crawford and others, including Simon's former Senior Vice President of

Development Mark Palombaro, in relation to the Seattle project. Defendants including Mr. Crawford and his company were dismissed by stipulation in 2010. It is not clear from public court records whether a settlement was reached.

A phone number listed for Mr. Crawford's business was not working Monday. No defense attorney was listed on the court docket, and an attorney who represented Mr. Crawford in the civil case could not immediately be reached.

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Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 or Twitter @richelord


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