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Ex-Friend Says Pro Ballplayer Took Him

HOUSTON (CN) - A former friend of Boston Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford claims that after he gave up his construction company to partner with Crawford and his brother on a new construction firm, and put his $123,000 life savings into it, the Crawfords raided its bank account and shut him out of the business.

Arturo McDowell sued Carl Crawford and his brother GerCory Crawford, in Harris County Court.

McDowell is a former pro baseball player who met Carl Crawford at a program for top minor league prospects in 2001, according to the complaint.

"Since that time, Mr. McDowell and Carl have developed and, until recently, maintained a close relationship of trust and confidence. As an example, Carl would often fly Mr. McDowell from Mississippi to Tampa and Toronto just so they could hang out together. Mr. McDowell came to rely on Carl for personal, financial, and moral guidance and support," the complaint states.

McDowell says in 2004 he started a construction company called McDowell Enterprises in his hometown of Jackson, Miss., which earned significant profits helping to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

"After seeing the success of McDowell Enterprises, Carl invested $75,000 in the company in 2007," the complaint states. "However, this investment was conditioned, in part, on Mr. McDowell's promise to mentor Carl's little brother, GerCory, in the practice of real estate development.

"In addition to running McDowell Enterprises, Mr. McDowell fulfilled his promise and spent significant time teaching GerCory.

"Unfortunately, in late 2007, the mortgage crisis hit McDowell Enterprises hard and the company was forced to the brink of bankruptcy. Mr. McDowell lost everything and Carl lost his investment. However, in an effort to continue the mentorship of his younger brother, Carl induced Mr. McDowell and his family to move from Mississippi to Houston in 2008 in hopes of starting a new venture together."

McDowell says that in 2008 and 2009 he operated McDowell Enterprises dba M.E.A. Construction in Texas.

"Although Carl did not provide any financial support to M.E.A. Construction, he encouraged Mr. McDowell to continue mentoring GerCory," the complaint states. "Because of Mr. McDowell's and Carl's close personal relationship, Mr. McDowell felt obliged and spent significant time and money taking GerCory on no less than five trips in 2009 to locations in Mississippi and Louisiana to look at various projects. All expenses were paid by M.E.A. Construction, including flights, hotels, rental cars, and dining."

McDowell says Carl and GerCory approached him about partnering on a new construction venture, to be called Pro-Source, in February 2010.

The complaint states: "Carl and GerCory promised to bring substantial business to Pro-Source in exchange for Mr. McDowell operating the business. As a result of their conversations, Pro-Source was formed in April 2010 as a part-time project for Mr. McDowell. The profits were to be divided as follows: Carl (50%); Mr. McDowell (40%); GerCory (10%.) ...

"Trusting Carl with his life savings, Mr. McDowell made initial cash contribution of $123,000 to get Pro-Source going. ... Per negotiations with his partners, Mr. McDowell provided GerCory with a $30,000 supplemental payroll bonus out of the $123,000 contribution. In addition, in April 2010, Mr. McDowell provided a good faith $1,000 signing bonus to both Carl and GerCory. ... Despite the profit sharing structure, neither Carl or GerCory made a cash investment in Pro-Source." (Ellipses mark references to exhibits.)

McDowell says he used his cash contribution to cover all of Pro-Source's expenses "including everything from payroll to project funding."

The complaint continues: "In December 2010, Carl called Mr. McDowell and persuaded him with promises of future cash contributions to start working with Pro-Source on a full-time basis. Because of their close friendship, Mr. McDowell obliged and ceased all future projects with M.E.A. Construction. In addition, Mr. McDowell passed up the opportunity to work part-time at SpeedRank.net for $45,000 annually beginning in early 2011. Mr. McDowell became totally reliant on Pro-Source and Carl to support himself and his family."

But McDowell says his friendship with Carl went awry after Pro-Source was awarded a $700,000 contract to build a home for the Crawfords' father. He says a dispute arose in September 2011, when the home was 95 percent done, and Pro-Source had $100,000 left in its account to finish the job.

"At some point in the dispute, GerCory instructed Mr. McDowell to transfer the $100,000 from Pro-Source's bank account to GerCory's bank account so that GerCory could finish the project as the general contractor," the complaint states. "Mr. McDowell did as instructed, and Carl removed Mr. McDowell from the job approximately 30 days after Mr. McDowell transferred the money to GerCory."

McDowell says in October 2011 he won a contract to build a home's roof, and though he did the work without Carl or GerCory's help he deposited the job's $16,000 profit into Pro-Source's bank account, which was used to finish the Crawfords' father's home.

McDowell says he has yet to receive any profits from either of the project.

"(I)t appears now that Carl and GerCory created a scheme whereby Mr. McDowell would provide all of the capital and perform all of the work for Pro-Source, and then Carl and GerCory would retain all of the profits for themselves," the complaint states. "Moreover, Carl and GerCory have refused to answer any of Mr. McDowell's phone calls, text messages, or demand letters, and Carl and GerCory have entirely shut Mr. McDowell out of Pro-Source after taking his money."

McDowell seeks an accounting and damages for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, fraudulent inducement, shareholder oppression, promissory estoppel, quantum meriut, and money had and received.

Carl Crawford signed a 7-year, $142 million contract with the Boston Red Sox in 2010. In 10 years in the Major Leagues he has a .293 lifetime batting average, with 1,609 bits, 115 home runs, 110 triples and 427 stolen bases.

McDowell is represented by Andrew Meade, with Burford, Hawash, Meade & Gaston.

Follow @cam_langford
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