Troubled contractor, focus of KCTV5 investigations, faces 56 federal charges

Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 3:12 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2022 at 3:19 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - A Kansas City contractor who was the focus of numerous KCTV5 investigations faces 56 counts in a federal indictment. Max Howell is charged with numerous counts of bank fraud, money laundering, and making false statements to a financial institution.

It includes five properties. The indictment repeatedly calls Howell’s business practices a “scheme”. It’s connected to city grants—meaning your tax dollars. The charges point out Howell’s connection to the city:

Prosecutors say Howell misused funds from HUD and other grants. He would take draws for things like windows, lumber, masonry and roofing but the work never happened. They allege he took money from loan accounts claiming he paid subcontractors, but those subcontractors were never paid.

Prosecutors say Howell would transfer funds between his business accounts and personal accounts.

Three of Howell’s businesses are mentioned by name: Entrepreneurs Enterprises, Madison Housing Partners and EE DevCo.

KCTV5 investigations

Howell was first brought to KCTV5′s attention last November. Families had accused Howell of taking their money, but not finishing projects. Several contractors and suppliers also came forward complaining that they were never paid by Howell for materials or work done on his projects.

One of the projects we reported on is one of five properties listed in the federal indictment. It’s an Airbnb at 26th and Madison in Kansas City.

Contractor Tito Orellana helped renovate the property, but was never paid. He told us Howell has owed him $74,000 for two years. We checked with Orellana in light of the federal charges, and he still has not been paid.

That Airbnb operates and rents for over $300/night. At the time of our initial report, it wasn’t registered with the city and didn’t even have an occupancy permit. We checked again after the federal charges were released—it still has short term rental permit and has been ticketed for operating without one.

Families filed suits

Joe and Rebecca Evans were the first family to call KCTV5 about Max Howell. They are among the dozens of families and businesses that have filed civil suits against Howell. Many of the allegations in their civil lawsuit mirror the new federal indictment questioning where money went and accusing Howell of not paying subcontractors.

Howell told them he needed an additional $184,000 to finish building their home.

“I broke down crying,” said Rebecca Evans.

Contractors have filed liens against their home, and workers stop by looking for payment. The Evans and other families went to police and filed complaints with the Attorney General Offices in both Kansas and Missouri.

News of federal charges is long overdue for families who questioned who would hold Max Howell accountable.

Another KCTV5 report on Max Howell involved a Paola family who struggled to rebuild after a house fire.

“He literally saw our desperation and how badly we wanted to go home and he just started drooling,” said Thoden. “It’s how I feel, like, it’s just it’s sick.”

He gave us a tour of his home while it was under construction. There were several code violations and downright mistakes in the build. Several contractors say there were never fully paid so they had to stop working.

Our investigative team was there during one phone call from Howell to the homeowner. Howell swore at Thoden repeatedly and dropped the f-word 26 times.

What’s ahead

We reached out to Max Howell for comment on the charges. He has not responded. A warrant has been issued, but he is not currently in federal custody. If he’s convicted of the charges, he faces up to 30 years in prison. Federal prosecutors also want the money and properties back.