Judge sets trial for August in federal criminal case against Newtown business owner Doug Evans

CINCINNATI -- The trial of well-known landscaping company owner Doug Evans will begin on August 21, according to a scheduling order signed Monday by U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett.

Evans, 55, who built a landscaping empire from a humble beginning hauling mulch in a pickup truck as a teenager, faces up to 103 years in prison if convicted of all six charges related to alleged minority contracting fraud.

Federal officials unsealed the indictment against Evans and Jim Bailey, 49, who is vice president of operations of the prominent Evans Landscaping, on June 9.

RELATED: Doug Evans indicted on federal charges, faces more than 100 years in prison

Both men face the same charges: two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, three counts of wire fraud, and one count of misprision of a felony. The prominent Newtown business, Evans Landscaping, faces five charges and a potential $1.25 million in fines.

All court motions in the case must be filed on or before July 11, Barrett wrote in his order, and a final pre-trial conference is set for August 11. The trial is expected to take several days.

Prosecutors allege that Evans and an IT employee, Korey Jordan, created a new company, Ergon Site Construction, in 2008 to act as a front for Evans to win minority and small business contracts with the city of Cincinnati and the state for demolishing houses, public schools and other projects. 

The city awarded Ergon 140 demolition contracts worth nearly $2 million.

“They came up with a plan so that they would form a company called Ergon Site Construction that would essentially operate as a front for Evans Landscaping so that Evans could get minority business enterprise contracts or small business enterprise contracts,” U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman said at a press conference on June 9.

Whatever jurors believe about the true relationship between Jordan and Evans may determine Evans' fate at trial.

Evans' attorney, Ben Dusing, said his client was just trying to help Jordan start up his own minority-owned business by giving him $85,000 in startup money, guaranteeing a line of credit and teaching him the business.

"He was trying to do a nice thing," Dusing said. 

Jordan and three other Evans Landscaping employees signed plea agreements admitting their guilt and will testify at trial: Maurice Patterson and John Dietrich, two former CFOs; and former manager Michael Moeller.

Some of these former employees had been terminated from the company, now work for competitors, and would have a lot to gain by "assailing both Mr. Evans and the company," Dusing said. 

Evans has been collecting property for more than 20 years and is Newtown’s biggest landowner. He controls more than 800 acres, including the purchase of Ivy Hills Country Club in 2014.

He owns industrial warehouses, farming land, parcels adjoining railroad lines and hilltop land overlooking the Little Miami River that was once owned by George Washington.

That real estate portfolio was valued at roughly $18.8 million in 2015, according to auditor records from Hamilton and Clermont counties and listings for his property.

It is possible Evans’ trial could get delayed a few months to give attorneys time to go through what will certainly be volumes of documents.

When Dusing spoke to reporters on June 9, he said the trial would likely take place six to nine months from then.

Dusing is a former federal prosecutor who successfully defended Kenwood Towne Place developer Matt Daniels against charges of fraud in 2013. A jury found Daniels not guilty.

But the federal investigation in the Evans case has already been active for more than two years.

FBI agents first raided Evans Landscaping locations in Newtown, Anderson Township and Mt. Carmel on July 7, 2015. They arrived in unmarked cars and took away dozens of boxes of documents.

It is also uncertain when a new U.S. Attorney will be named, and if it could affect the Evans case.

Ohio's U.S. senators named former Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann as their pick for U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio in early February.

Sen. Rob Portman and Sen. Sherrod Brown named Hartmann, a Hyde Park resident, as their recommendation to President Donald Trump. If Trump nominates Hartmann, his appointment will need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Then Hartmann would lead the prosecution of federal criminal cases and any civil cases in the 48 county-district.  

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