Special to The Community News
An embezzling homebuilder on probation for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Parker County woman had his probation revoked and was sentenced to 50 years in prison on Monday, July 29, after it was shown that he bought a beach house in Florida and multiple vehicles instead of paying the woman back.
Joseph Charles “Chuck” Cole, 55, of Maypearl, was placed on deferred adjudication in May 2018 for misapplication of fiduciary property over $200,000, a first-degree felony. After a restitution hearing last August, District Judge Craig Towson, who presided over the case, assessed Cole’s restitution at $1,500,358. Towson ordered Cole to pay $13,164 per month toward restitution.
At two hearings in July, Assistant District Attorney Susan Pruett introduced voluminous records showing that, while paying only $1,291 in restitution and telling his probation officer that he didn’t have any money coming in, Cole had actually received and diverted more than a million dollars.
According to the records, Cole took more than a half million dollars of that money and bought a beach home near Destin, Florida, which he then put into a trust for his daughters. He also spent more than $125,000 to purchase or pay off several vehicles for himself, his wife, and children, including a Porshe and a BMW.
During the hearing Monday, one witness testified that, last March, Cole sold him his outdoors and hunting business for more than $400,000. In the course of the sale, Cole represented to the buyer that the company was making money, with profits of about $125,000 annually for the past three years. However, records from Cole’s tax returns indicated that he represented to the Internal Revenue Service that he was losing money every year, with a loss of more than $400,000 in the last three years.
“We gave Mr. Cole deferred adjudication from the outset in hopes that he would pay his restitution,” Pruett said. “However, with him hiding and diverting money on such a tremendous scale, we came to the conclusion that was never going to happen. He was ordered to give the probation officer all of his financial account numbers and information on all of his assets and business ventures. Because he was using accounts to conceal money, he actually only gave probation a fraction of that information. It seemed like every time we reviewed records on accounts he told us about, multiple other accounts that he didn’t were revealed.”
Records admitted during the hearing also showed that, instead of paying restitution, Cole gave tens of thousands of dollars to his daughters, paid for their college, spent thousands on vacations, and took out more than $40,000 in cash.
Towson also found that Cole violated other probation restrictions by repeatedly traveling out of state without permission and by failing to tell the probation officer where he was working and living.
Cole is also on deferred adjudication in Tarrant County for misapplication of fiduciary property of $100,000 to $200,000. In that offense, he embezzled money intended to build a home in Fort Worth.
Two other victims from 2002 and 2008 testified that Cole embezzled from them related to construction projects, with amounts totaling more than a million dollars.
“On the original offense, essentially, Mr. Cole was using our victim’s money to fund his lifestyle,” said Assistant District Attorney Jeff Swain. “Among other things, he was using her money to pay for his auto racing expenses.”
“It is builders like Mr. Cole that make things more difficult for the legitimate, upstanding builders across our state. People are rightly skeptical and wary because con artists posing as homebuilders are a real problem. That is really unfortunate because most in the construction business are upstanding folks making people’s dream homes become a reality,” Swain said.
“I’m thankful that Judge Towson took such a strong stand against white collar crime,” Pruett said. “Just because he got probation initially doesn’t mean he isn’t deserving of a long sentence when he didn’t comply with his probation requirements, especially when those relate to reimbursing the victim he stole from when he has the ability to do so. I think the pattern of embezzling that we have seen with this defendant over a span of over 20 years and millions of dollars was also very concerning.”
“Mr. Cole falls under standard parole rules,” Swain said. “He will be eligible when his actual time served plus good time credit equals a quarter of his sentence.”