Suspect in Cleveland fraud case being held without bond
The suspect in a Cleveland fraud investigation remains in the Liberty County Jail following arrests on consecutive days last week in Liberty and San Jacinto counties stemming from warrants out of three other Texas counties.
Thomas Wayne Handy, 42, faces three theft of property charges and one theft of service charge in Titus County, one theft charge in Hardin County and one theft of service charge in Nueces County.
With investigators sifting through evidence, Cleveland Police Chief Darrel Broussard said it “will be a while before we can get bank records and other evidence to charge the subject in possible fraud [and] theft cases” in Liberty County.
Some of Handy’s alleged victims claim he posed as a representative of a pipeline company and hired as many as 40 employees, having them fill out new hire documents and undergo drug testing. They say they were issued payroll and sign-on bonus checks that bounced, which has left them in more of a financial bind. Police confirm these reports.
Nicholas Pilkington, one of the alleged victims, said he left a lucrative job as a project manager for a welding fabrication company to accept employment with what he believed was Handy’s pipeline company. Pilkington claims he met Handy at a local welding supply store where the two struck up a conversation that ended with Pilkington being offered a job.
“He asked me what all I do and I said that I have been around pipelines all these years,” he said. “We went outside and talked for another 30-40 minutes. He said he wanted me to go to work for him as a pipeline superintendent.”
Pilkington claims he asked for time to discuss the job offer with his wife. Later that day, after getting his wife’s approval, he met with Handy to sign a contract.
“I signed it. He signed it,” Pilkington said. “After that, we went to these places and got things going. He had us working at these businesses in Cleveland where we were cleaning up their yards and getting it ready for pipe. He gave me a paycheck, which included a sign-on bonus, for $12,000, and it bounced. Now I have to pay NSF charges at my bank and I lost work right here at Christmas time.”
Law enforcement authorities confirm that many of Handy’s employees were being housed at the Best Western hotel in Cleveland, including some for more than two weeks.
A hotel employee, who asked not to be named, claims Handy reserved as many as 34 rooms at a time from Dec. 1-19.
“He was given a special rate for having so many rooms for so long,” the employee said. “No payment was ever made. He asked if he could write a check for the balance but never gave us a signed check.”
The employee claims she also fell victim to Handy when he asked her to cash a check for $1,000.
Cleveland police confirmed these reports as part of the ongoing investigation.
Handy was arrested Dec. 18 by the San Jacinto County Precinct 3 Constable’s Office for the outstanding warrants. After being kept briefly at the San Jacinto County Jail, Handy was expected to be transferred to Hardin County to face charges there. While headed to Hardin County, he reportedly had a medical emergency and was transported to Cleveland Emergency Hospital.
A short time after arriving at the hospital, he walked away, authorities say.
He was arrested a second time on Dec. 20 and transported to the Liberty County Jail where he is being held without bond.
Calls for comment from Handy were not possible as he is being held in jail. No attorney of record is listed for Handy at this time.
Detectives Kevin Cooke and John Shaver with Cleveland Police Department are investigating the case. Anyone with information is asked to call them at 281-592-2622.