CINCINNATI (AP) - A federal grand jury has charged an Ohio landscaping company, its owner and another company official with allegedly defrauding the city of Cincinnati and other public entities through fraudulent small business and minority contracts.
Federal authorities announced the charges Friday against Evans Landscaping Inc., owner Doug Evans and vice president of operations Jim Bailey. The company and men are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud. The men are also charged with misprision of a felony - not reporting a known felony to authorities.
Court documents say that in 2008 Doug Evans and several other employees formed a company called Ergon Site Construction. "That would essentially serve as a front for Evans Landscaping so that Evans could get minority business enterprise contracts or small business enterprise contracts," said Benjamin Glassman a U.S. Attorney with the Southern District of Ohio
Glassman says the President of Ergon, Korey Jordan is African American and was an IT specialist at Evans Landscaping and had no experience in landscaping.
"Ergon was not independently owned and controlled by Mr. Jordan and it did not provide commercially useful services instead everything about what Ergon did and owned and controlled was for the benefit of Evans," said Glassman. He wouldn't going into specific projects but says Ergon received more than 100 contracts involving public schools and universities totaling around 2 million dollars and the money was funneled back to Evan Landscaping.
Prosecutors allege the defendants set up a fake company in 2008 to win minority and small business contracts with Cincinnati. Authorities say that company received demolition contracts worth nearly $2 million.
A representative for Evans Landscaping says the allegations are not true and that Doug Evans was trying to help a startup minority business. "Ergon was a separate company 100 percent owned by someone else," said Benjamin Dusing, who is providing legal counsel to Evans.
He says Evans Landscaping did assist Ergon at times but didn't break any laws. "Often at the request of the city when Ergon screwed up big time and other people suffered consequences including but not limited to the city Evans endeavored to assist Ergon. The assistance was greater at some point in times than others," said Dusing.
Dusing says they have a chain of emails and other evidence to prove Evans did nothing wrong and he says he looks for to defending Evans in court.
In conjunction with the indictment, the government has filed Bills of Information and Plea Agreements for Jordan the President of Ergon. Maurice Patterson, the former CFO of Evans Landscaping. John Dietrich, the former CFO of Evans Landscaping and Michael Moeller, the former Manager of Evans Landscaping.
An arraignment for Evans is scheduled for Wednesday the Federal Court building at 1:30 p.m.