Updated

Documents: Meece faces two criminal complaints

By CRAIG KAPITAN

Eagle Staff Writer

Claiming that he was a victim of media bias, Brazos County district attorney candidate Patrick Meece stood before a room full of fellow Republicans on Wednesday and repeatedly denied he has ever been the subject of a criminal investigation.

“There has never been a criminal complaint filed against me in the past three years — period, end of sentence,” he told the Republican Women of the Brazos Valley during a luncheon event.

The Eagle, however, has obtained copies of two separate criminal complaints against the candidate filed by different complainants — one in Bryan, the other in College Station.

Both men who filed the complaints — felony theft and fraud — are building contractors who say they were swindled by Meece after being hired to build his home.

Meece’s office requested copies of the complaints from The Eagle on Friday, but the candidate did not return the newspaper’s calls seeking comment. However, Meece said earlier this month that he was unaware of any criminal complaints against him until the issue was brought up in a question by moderator Donnis Baggett, publisher and editor of The Eagle, during a debate earlier this month with incumbent Bill Turner.

Anyone can file a criminal complaint, Meece said several days after the debate, explaining that it’s not the same as a conviction or even an indictment, which is a formal charge of criminal conduct.

But he told the Republican club Wednesday that, since the debate, he has filed open records requests with the Bryan and College Station police departments, as well as the Brazos County Sheriff’s Department, and determined there have been no complaints filed against him.

Meece’s wife, Margaret Meece, who is a justice of the peace, filed an open records request with the College Station Police Department, Sgt. Donnie Andreski confirmed Wednesday afternoon. And while the department responded that it had no record of Meece’s name on a criminal complaint, “that doesn’t mean there’s no investigation in process,” he said.

He said that’s because public records involving ongoing investigations don’t include names of suspects to protect the identity of those who may be wrongly accused.

“Suspect information on any report is not available until they are complete,” he explained.

However, criminal complaints can be searched by the public based on the person who filed the complaint. The Eagle was able to obtain complaints filed by Oakwood Custom Homes owner Alton Ofczarzak and contractor Buddy Micklitz, a Bryan firefighter who also owns a Bryan construction business.

Ofczarzak also provided The Eagle with a written statement he gave College Station investigators when filing the complaint last month.

“I feel that I was swindled very carefully and skillfully by the Meeces ... and that it was their intent from the very beginning to have two houses built and only pay a fraction of their value,” he wrote.

“I have fallen prey to a man and a woman who have set themselves out to the public to be public servants in the community,” he added. “I feel that this is criminal intent, and this should be looked into by law enforcement.”

In the police department document, the offense described by Ofczarzak is listed as theft of more than $100,000 — a second-degree felony.

Ofczarzak said he got to know Patrick Meece in the mid-1990s when he hired Meece as a construction attorney for his business. So when Meece asked him years later to build two adjacent houses — one for him and another for his mother-in-law — the contractor agreed, he said.

The two signed a contract in May 2001 for the building of Meece’s home for about $250,000, the document states. Then four months later, after Meece decided he wanted to expand the size of the home, a new contract was signed for about $293,000, Ofczarzak said.

The Meeces took out a bank loan for their home and said they would pay for the home of Margaret Hiebeler, Meece’s mother-in-law, with cash from her account, Ofczarzak told police. But things started going sour quickly, he said.

“At every stage of completion when it was time to collect a percentage of the money owed me, there seemed to be numerous reasons presented as to why we could not collect our money,” he wrote in the statement provided to police.

“When I suggested that we could not continue construction until the disputes were settled, I was threatened that if I did not continue construction that I would have a lawsuit filed against me,” he continued. “I was told to ‘just finish the job, you’ll get your money.’”

Ofczarzak did get some payments, he said, adding that Meece told him he had spent a large portion of the money he had borrowed from the bank to pay for his failed bid for Congress in early 2002.

After repeated attempts to collect the money, the business owner said, he received a letter from the Meeces stating that he was fired from the job. However, Hiebeler’s home was nearly completed by that time, he said.

Ofczarzak filed a lawsuit in August 2003, claiming he still was owed about $130,000 for both houses. One year later, the Meeces responded with a countersuit, aiming it at Ofczarzak and members of his family.

In the suit, the Meeces claimed that Ofczarzak’s company made mistakes that delayed construction, had improper accounting and “originally prepared the site to pour a slab using the wrong floor plans to the house.” There also were multiple plumbing and electrical problems with the house and Ofczarzak’s suit claimed he was owed money for items that were never delivered, the Meeces’ suit states.

“After [Ofczarzak’s company] left the job, the subcontractors indicated that most of the house failed to meet any code requirements,” the suit states.

But that wasn’t the case, according to contractor Buddy Micklitz, who originally was hired to complete the roofing for the houses. After Ofczarzak’s departure from the project, he was hired by the Meeces to complete construction on the homes as the general contractor, Micklitz said.

Last year, he filed a criminal complaint with the Bryan Police Department against the Meeces.

Micklitz, a Bryan firefighter who operates his construction company as a side business, said the Meeces failed to pay him $14,000 and other subcontractors similar amounts.

When the Meeces closed on the house with a local title company, Micklitz was not contacted to make sure all debts had been paid on the property, he said. For that to happen, they would have had to sign a statement saying they owed no money on the house, he said.

Whether that was a violation of the law is what the Bryan Police Department is investigating. According to the department’s criminal complaint document, Meece has been accused of falsifying a statement to obtain property or credit.

“We have been in contact with the [state] Attorney General’s Office and are awaiting prosecutorial advice from them to determine if a criminal offense has occurred as well as who is jurisdictionally responsible,” Bryan Police Department spokesman Walt Melnyk said in an e-mail last week.

The Attorney General’s Office has yet to make a decision as to whether it will assist in the investigation, agency spokesman Tom Kelley said last week.

One of the things that bothers Micklitz most, he said recently when contacted by The Eagle, is that he has been featured in television advertisements for Patrick Meece’s district attorney campaign despite all that has happened.

“He didn’t ask for permission — he just recycled that commercial,” Micklitz said of the television spot, originally used for Meece’s campaign for Congress.

In it, Micklitz is portrayed in his construction gear working on the Meeces’ home. Micklitz said it angers him every time he sees it, considering that the commercials tout the candidate’s honesty and integrity.

While he said he has considered filing a lawsuit against the Meeces because of the ads, he also has reservations about the idea. “If I went and filed a lawsuit now, Patrick would come after me — start running up my legal bill,” he said. “For $14,000 on my part, how much can my legal bill go up?”

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