More than two years after a jury convicted Evans Landscaping owner Doug Evans of minority contracting fraud, a judge ruled on Friday that he must report to prison on June 4 to serve his 21-month sentence.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Barrett delayed Evans’ report date to prison several times due to Evans’ health concerns over COVID-19, but at a court hearing on Friday, the judge said there would be no further delays.
“I think we all understand this is going to be it, right, guys?” Barrett told attorneys during a 10-minute phone hearing.
Barrett presided over Evans' month-long trial, which ended when a jury found him guilty in December 2018 of using a shell company to win millions in demolition contracts.
Since then, Barrett has delayed Evans’ report date on five separate occasions.
On Friday, Evans’ attorney, Ben Dusing, asked for a sixth delay to allow his client, who is 58, time to receive the COVID vaccine before reporting to prison. Evans was scheduled to report on April 9.
“We are requesting a delay so that Mr. Evans can be vaccinated before being taken into BOP (Bureau of Prisons) custody,” Dusing said. “It is a two-shot process that will culminate at the end of May.”
Barrett granted the delay to protect Evans and other inmates from COVID while acknowledging that Evans could have gotten the vaccine before now.
“Perhaps this could have been handled earlier," he said.
Ohio began offering COVID-19 vaccines to those who are over age 50 on March 11.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Mangan said he had confirmed Evans’ vaccine appointments with Dusing.
“It is our expectation this would be the final request and this would be a firm report date for Mr. Evans once he is vaccinated,” Mangan said.
The high-profile Newtown entrepreneur is scheduled to serve his sentence at Ashland Federal Correctional Institution. This low-security prison in Eastern Kentucky houses 959 inmates, in combination with its adjacent satellite camp.
Evans insisted throughout his trial he was innocent, but the jury convicted him of creating a shell company — Ergon Site Construction — in 2008, hoping to win millions in minority demolition jobs from the state and the city of Cincinnati amid a deepening recession.
“I think the criminal conduct at the heart of this case really deprives a lot of people of a fair shake,” then-U.S. Attorney Ben Glassman said after the verdict. “It harms every other business out there that is trying to play by the rules.”
Prosecutors accused Evans of creating a phony front company, Ergon, with IT employee Korey Jordan as a figurehead.
"It is worth reminding the court that the letters in the name 'Ergon' could be rearranged to form the word 'Negro,'" Mangan wrote in a sentencing memorandum. "One witness testified that Doug Evans thought the use of that term for Ergon was hilarious ... The word 'Negro' was written in handwriting at the top of an invoice that was found on a table in Doug Evans' office during the search."
Evans appealed his conviction, but the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals denied that appeal on March 18.
In addition to Evans’ 21-month prison term, the judge ordered him to pay $50,000 and the company to pay $500,000, half of which will be set aside as community service payments to help minority businesses.
Five former and current Evans Landscaping employees were also convicted in the scheme.