- Associated Press - Saturday, February 8, 2014

A furniture store mogul loses $7 million in a Super Bowl bet with customers. A man posing as a distinguished Army general has his lie unravel after he offers a police chief a White House tour. And a former basketball star tries his hand on the diamond. These are a few of the happenings across Texas in this week’s edition of Lone Star Brites:


FORT WORTH, Texas - The medals and uniform didn’t convince a North Texas police chief he was truly dealing with a U.S. Army brigadier general.

Michael Douglas McDowell claimed to be one when he visited Fort Worth police Chief Jeff Halstead two years ago offering a tour of the White House or Pentagon. But the chief became suspicious and later discovered through investigators that McDowell had never served in the military.

The 57-year-old McDowell on Tuesday pleaded guilty to impersonating a public servant and was sentenced to five years of probation. He also pleaded guilty to bigamy for marrying a woman while still married to his estranged wife.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports (https://bit.ly/1btIye1) McDowell spun a web of lies that lasted for years as he claimed a long military career that included secret intelligence work. He was sometimes seen with a briefcase handcuffed to his arm. He had a Washington, D.C., phone number with a voicemail informing callers that someone from his “command staff” would call back.

McDowell often wore medals and ribbons, and had a Purple Heart license plate.


HOUSTON - Seattle’s victory in the Super Bowl has cost flamboyant Houston furniture store mogul Jim McIngvale some $7 million.

The owner of one of the nation’s largest independent furniture stores, Gallery Furniture, McIngvale promised customers who spent at least $6,000 and took delivery in the two weeks before the game that he’d refund their purchase cost if Seattle won.

The Seahawks delivered.

McIngvale, known as “Mattress Mack,” says his accountant told him the latest promotion was a “crazy idea” and now the accountant is “pulling his hair out.”

McIngvale says while he didn’t do well financially, he did build on his brand. He says the promotion was not covered by insurance.


HOUSTON - Retired seven-time NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady plans to try pitching for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League.

The team says that it is a “lifelong dream” of McGrady’s to play baseball. It also says that the 6-foot-8 McGrady has “demonstrated skill, determination and diligence during his training program.” The team says it looks forward to monitoring his progress in a new sport.

The 34-year-old McGrady played for several NBA teams, including the Houston Rockets and Orlando Magic. He last played in the 2011-12 season.

The Skeeters last made national headlines when Roger Clemens pitched two games for them in 2012 at age 50.


HOUSTON - A volunteer at a Houston-area elementary school who noticed some students were getting a smaller lunch of cold cheese sandwiches is digging into his own pocket to cover delinquent meal accounts so every child can get the same full lunch tray.

Kenny Thompson is a volunteer tutor and mentor at Valley Oaks Elementary in Houston. He says he asked about the lunch differences after hearing about some Utah students who lost meals because of non-payment.

Thompson told Houston television station KPRC (https://bit.ly/1fXbkVi) that likely was the reason for smaller meals at his school. He learned more than 60 children were on reduced lunches because parents couldn’t afford the 40-cent daily fee.

He provided $465 to eliminate the deficits.


HOUSTON - A Houston suburb near NASA’s Johnson Space Center plans to erect a towering statue of an Apollo astronaut.

The Houston Chronicle (https://bit.ly/1fMsoxF) reports the statue planned by the city of Webster will be 80 feet tall on top of a 50-foot pedestal that will house a space museum. The proposed site is at Interstate 45 and NASA Parkway.

Houston sculptor and painter David Adickes has been commissioned for the statue, which will depict a space-suited astronaut planting a U.S. flag on the surface of the moon.

City officials estimate the entire space-themed attraction will cost about $30 million. Adickes says he’ll need a little over a year to sculpt the astronaut.

His work includes the 67-foot Sam Houston statue in Huntsville.

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