Storm Troopers Builder Must Pay Back Flood Victims Or Face Prison Time
Posted March 14, 2002 2:36 a.m. EST
WILSON, N.C. — Robert McKee, who vowed to help flood victims but took their money instead, recently pleaded guilty to bouncing checks and more, but he may not face jail time.
McKee's company, "Storm Troopers," planned to repair hundreds of flooded homes in 1999. However, he ran out of money and completed just a few houses before skipping town.
"If anybody has a problem, has a check of mine, bring it to me. Don't bring it to the magistrate. I'll pay it a hell of a lot quicker than the magistrate will get it paid because all the money I've got to pay to get out of jail is less money I can pay those checks with," McKee said in an interview in February 2000.
Soon after that interview, McKee fled to Texas, where he was captured by authorities. McKee recently pleaded guilty to 24 counts of bouncing checks and coercing money from flood victims.
Linda Johnson remembers the first time she met McKee.
"He came down the driveway and he said, 'Do you all want me to clean your house? I'll be glad to clean your house,'" Johnson said.
That work was free, but Johnson later paid McKee $27,000 to fix her home.
"[There] wasn't anything built on the house, so we got to wondering where he was," Johnson said. "The next day, we came out here and he was nowhere around, so we kept on coming. Someone said he went up the road, so we knew then that our money was gone."
McKee blamed his accounting skills for his troubles.
"I'm not a good bookkeeper. I'd be the first one to say I'm not a good bookkeeper. I build houses," McKee said.
The judge is allowing McKee to skip prison, so he can work to pay back his victims. He owes more than $250,000, and he has just five years to earn it. If McKee does not, he could spend five years behind bars.
Johnson hopes McKee makes good this time.
"That will be a big burden off me and my family's heart. We just want our money back," she said.
McKee will work in Texas under close supervision to pay back the money. However, he has one more hurdle to overcome. The judge will not let him out of the Edgecombe County jail until he pays $5,000. As of now, he has not paid it.