Lashawn Pettus-Brown: Basketball player who bilked city out of $184K sentenced to prison

CINCINNATI – A former professional basketball player who bilked the city out of $184,000 in 2002 is going back to prison after nine years on the run.

Lashawn Pettus-Brown received a three-year sentence Wednesday. A judge also ordered him to pay back  $184,172.40.

Pettus-Brown, who faced a possible 12-year sentence for breaking parole in 2005, wrote his own sensational chapter in city history.

Twelve years ago, he borrowed city money to rebuild the 90-year-old Empire Theatre in Over-the-Rhine.

At the time, Pettus-Brown, who played basketball in Japan, fooled city officials with a forged bank letter that showed he had a net worth of $1.6 million when he really had a net worth of 1.6 million yen – about $14,000.

Pettus-Brown spent the money on himself, prosecutors said. He used it to promote a rap concert in Australia, travel and dine at expensive restaurants and never did any work on the theater, prosecutors said.

He was eventually convicted of fraud but served only a few months. He went back to Japan in 2005 and apparently hadn’t returned to the U.S. until last December, when he was arrested at the Los Angeles airport.

"Welcome back, Mr. Brown," judge Ethna Cooper greeted him in her court in January.

"It wasn't a matter of me fleeing, it was just a matter of I thought I was finished with everything," Pettus-Brown told Cooper at that January hearing.

A Pettus-Brown timeline:

> 2003: A year after the city paid Pettus-Brown, the theater roof collapsed and the theater had to be demolished.

➢ 2004: Pettus-Brown was on the lam in New York when a woman he was dating googled him, discovered he was wanted for fraud and called police. They set up a sting and arrested him at an Applebee’s in Long Island.

➢ 2004: Pettus-Brown was convicted in federal court, but the conviction was thrown out.

➢ 2005: Pettus-Brown went back to jail on theft charges and was convicted in Cooper’s court. She sent him to prison for four years.

➢ 2005: Pettus-Brown served five months in a prison boot camp and then went free, unbeknownest to Cooper. He resumed his basketball career as a 6-6 forward with the Tokyo Blue.

> 2006: The city won a judgment of $184,172.40 against Pettus-Brown.

> 2007:  Pettus-Brown sued the U.S. government for $10 million, claiming he was a victim of selective prosecution. He said he was made a scapegoat for the failed theater project. He never collected.

> 2010: Pettus-Brown started Japan Entertainment Group, which lists him as founder and CEO. The company website claims to make movies, music and DVDs.

> 2013:  Pettus-Brown returned to the U.S. and was arrested in California.

> 2014: Pettus-Brown returned to Cooper's courtroom. She gave him several chances in the following weeks to show he would pay back the city, but he couldn't convince her.

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