Contractor forfeits $67,956 to save equipment

Concrete contractor Ray Brooks had a tough decision to make: cough up $67,956 in back taxes or have his construction equipment seized. The situation may seem harsh, but according to Tarrant County Tax Assessor Betsy Price, it’s not that uncommon.

“We try to work with people who are behind on their taxes for a while, but if they don’t eventually make their payments, then we will seize their property,” Price said. “The government is getting more and more aggressive on seeing that taxes are paid.”

Brooks, who owed payments from both 2001 and 2002 property taxes, has been under continuous scrutiny in Tarrant County, Texas. Deputy constables confronted Brooks at his Fort Worth business and read him his warrant, threatening to seize his trucks.

“This means we can take your trucks,” Price told the Star-Telegram. “Or we can lock the gates and leave the constables here until you pay us.”

Legally, repossession of equipment can occur either when an equipment purchaser is in behind in payments. Seizure can happen if taxes or funds owed to the government are delinquent. In order for a dealer to repossess, he must have a valid security interest stated in the original sales contract. Repossession is legal in most states, but requirements vary.

Both county prosecutors and the FBI are currently investigating Brooks, who may have overcharged the Tarrant school district by $5 million. Since 1991, he has received more than $30 million in payments from the district from projects that either drastically exceeded original estimates or were left incomplete.

“We had reason to believe that [Brooks] might be going under or have a change in their business,” Price told the Star-Telegram. “In that case, we have the legal right to seize the current year’s taxes as well as delinquent taxes.”