The Brothers Graham (Part I)

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In light of such facts, it would seem that a former governor and the state's top law-enforcement official might have been a tough sell for the Grahams, although by now, with the Apex judgment on appeal, it's fairly safe to say that White and Mattox have removed themselves from the Grahams' A-list.

Apparently, the same cannot as yet be said about Andy Collins and Fred Hofheinz. The private corrections facility in LaSalle Parish is reportedly back on track, pending approval from the new administration in Baton Rouge. Hofheinz, through his company, Viewpoint Development Corporation, is trying to attract private investors for the project, which would be managed by Collins' new firm, Professional Care of America Inc.

Both Hofheinz and Collins have acknowledged employing the Grahams as consultants. So has Charles Terrell, a former chairman of the state board of criminal justice, who has begun his own private corrections business. Those who know from firsthand experience how Pat and Mike Graham operate recognize a disturbing pattern to all this activity.

"They basically surround themselves with credibility, and then market that credibility," says a finance attorney from The Woodlands who worked closely with both Grahams in the late eighties. "They get close to people, and it's like that guy with the prison system [Collins]. I mean, I know nothing about the man. What I do know is that these guys, when it's all said and done, the people who get close to them end up with shit on them, and they're off to the next deal."

Early on, Michael Edwin and Patrick Harold Graham sought to establish their credibility -- and, perhaps, their place in life -- by telling others that they were the sons of a prominent Meyerland haberdasher who for many years clothed some of Houston's best-dressed men. (The clothier actually was their uncle.)Mike Graham reportedly burnished the family pedigree further when he told an Iraqi businessman in Baghdad that he was the great-grandson of the man who baked the first graham cracker.

That both statements are exaggerations suggests that the story of Mike and Pat Graham isn't about who they are, but who they are not. It's a story about what Mike and Pat Graham need to be, and how it is that, to great personal gain for themselves, they could persuade others that they were men of wealth and influence who were always in the right place at the right time.

But when a murderer's girlfriend determined that Pat really wasn't Harold Robert, a TDCJ official with the inside knowledge to spring her boyfriend from prison, and then beat Graham at his own game, it spoke to the pathos inherent in living a lie. Desperation can inspire a virtuous man to great things. Thrust to the forefront of a cunning one's heart, it invariably heralds his ruin.

An accurate telling of Mike and Pat Graham's story would need to answer at least three questions: What accounts for their long run of duplicity? How did they manage to attract the cooperation of otherwise responsible people -- a category that may or may not include high-ranking guardians of the public trust who lent them support?

And, finally, the question a lot of angry people want answered: Why, given the damage that can be laid at their doorstep, haven't they been held accountable?

A former neighbor of Pat Graham's remembers the time he took Pat duck hunting. It was back in the late seventies, and Pat seemed a nice fit to his middle-class Humble neighborhood -- a young husband and father of two trying to make a living in the men's clothing business. A decent sort, the neighbor remembers, though he knew "absolutely nothing about nothing" when it came to hunting.

But Pat took a shine to certain symbolic aspects of the sport. After a couple of mornings in a duck blind, stuffed animal heads started going up on the walls of his house. "The next thing I know, they got all these exotic mounts," the neighbor says. "They were going to those damn shoot-a-lion-in-a-cage things."

Mike and Pat and their families lived about a block away from each other. Each brother ran a little clothing store known as Gents. Mike's was in Houston; Pat's in Humble. This was before the repo men started showing up late at night to take back cars and boats; before the neighbor began to think it was only a matter of time before he'd wake up one morning to find Mike or Pat shot dead in his driveway.

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Brian Wallstin