By Brett Milam
Members of Evans Landscaping, a construction company based out of Cincinnati, pleaded guilty to defrauding the city, state and the small business and minority business programs, according to the Department of Justice.
Three formers employees of Evans Landscaping, Maurice Patterson, the former CFO, and Michael Moeller, former manager, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Conspiracy to commit wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000, with mandatory restitution.
John Diertrich, former CFO of Evans Landscaping, pleaded guilty to one count of misprision of a felony (a misdemeanor crime of failing to report a felony to the authorities), which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000, with mandatory restitution.
Evans Landscaping performs demolition, site-work, grading, hauling, recycling and landscaping services.
Last May, 55-year-old Doug Evans, owner of Evans Landscaping and 49-year-old Jim Bailey, the vice president of operations, were also indicted by a grand jury with charges related to allegedly defrauding the city of Cincinnati and the state through fraudulent small business and minority business contracts.
Given its size, the company is not certified and does not qualify as a “small business enterprise” or a “minority business enterprise,” according to the indictment filed in the United States District Court, Southern District of Ohio Western Division in front of Judge J. Barrett.
In 2008, Evans Landscaping filed a tradename registration for “Ergonsite Construction” with the Ohio Secretary of State and also around that time, Ergon Site Construction, LLC in Ohio, a limited liability company, which “purportedly provided construction and demolition services,” was created.
During this time, Ergon’s bank account was established through the same bank and banker used by Evans Landscaping, according to the indictment.
Evans Landscaping allegedly provided up to $50,000 in startup funds to Ergon in September 2008, an additional $20,000 on Feb. 12, 2009 and $15,000 on March 16, 2009.
From 2008 to 2014, the government alleges that Evans Landscaping through Evans and bailey, knowingly and intentionally conspired to commit wire fraud from the city of Cincinnati by obtaining public contracts through the fraudulent small business enterprises (SBE) program that Evans Landscaping controlled.
The government alleges that through the SBE certification process, Ergon provided false information to the city regarding its ownership, operations and finances in order to conceal the true nature of Evans Landscaping’s relationship and control over Ergon.
“Evans Landscaping and the coconspirators coached Jordan [Korey Jordan, a computer consultant and part owner of an IT company called Bridge Networks, which provided services to Evans Landscaping] to conceal the true nature of Evans Landscaping’s relationship with Ergon during its interactions with the city,” the indictment said.
From 2011 to 2014, Ergon bid on and received over 100 residential demolition contracts with the city of Cincinnati by leveraging Ergon’s fraudulent SBE status, paying them $1.9 million, according to the indictment.
According to U.S. District Attorney Benjamin Glassman, during the same timeframe, Evans Landscaping bid on state demolition and construction projects – particularly public school, university and municipal projects – by claiming Ergon would provide a percentage of the services and receive part of the funds to be paid.
In late 2013, the village of Batavia demolished a house at 610 E. Main Street and paid Evans Landscaping $6,500 for the demolition.
Both Evans and Bailey have pleaded not guilty, with a trial date set for Aug. 21 before Judge Michael R. Barrett.