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Divorce could prompt sell-off of Evans' land

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Posted at 7:24 AM, Dec 07, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-07 07:24:06-05

NEWTOWN, Ohio -- Some of the $18 million in property owned by well-known Newtown business owner Doug Evans, who is the target of an FBI probe, may now be sold as part of a recent divorce settlement.

A Hamilton County judge signed an order on Nov. 19 allowing Evans and his wife, Stephanie, to sell property that each is entitled to under a divorce settlement agreement.

Since the settlement has not yet been filed in court, it is unknown what, if anything, will be sold. But a court hearing is set in the divorce case on Dec. 21.

Evans, the hardscrabble owner of Evans Landscaping, 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.

Yet his real estate ventures have stalled in 2015 with his impending divorce and a raid by FBI agents on Evans Landscaping facilities in Newtown, Anderson and Mt. Carmel on July 7.

Although it has been five months since agents arrived in unmarked cars to collect evidence from a sealed search warrant, they said, there has been no update in the case and no charges have been filed.

Rick Smith, supervisory special agent in the FBI’s Cincinnati office, could not comment on the case. But he said that white-collar criminal cases take a long time to investigate and “five months is not a lot of time.”

The raid is focused on minority enterprise business issues, said Ben Dusing, who is Evans’ attorney.

“We share a common goal which is to help them (FBI) uncover the facts and discover the truth in as expeditious manner as possible,” Dusing said.

Dusing is a former federal prosecutor who now does high-profile white-collar criminal defense work. He successfully defended Kenwood Towne Place developer Matt Daniels against charges of fraud in 2013. A jury found Daniels not guilty.

“We have met with the government on many occasions and voluntarily provided them voluminous materials,” he said about Evans. “We endeavor to be as transparent as possible. We really try to partner with them to try to understand the full context so they are not drawing conclusions from a limited slice of the evidence pie.”

Fines for Pollution

Meanwhile, Evans has also been the target of environmental probes.

In November Evans paid $50,000 toward the $300,000 in fines owed for pollution violations as part of a 2014 settlement with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. He made his first $50,000 payment in May.

As part of that settlement, he also agreed to a $100,000 tree-planting project that will serve as a natural windbreak for dust and emissions from his stonework, gravel and sand operations in Hamilton and Clermont counties.

Evans is working with the Hamilton County Department of Environmental Services on the project, said Kate Hanson, a spokesperson for the Ohio Attorney General’s office.

The attorney general’s office also received a 2014 accusation against Evans and Evans Landscaping for violating solid and hazardous waste laws. Hamilton County Public Health referred alleged violations against Evans for solid waste, as well as construction and demolition debris, to their office. That matter is “pending,” Hanson said.

The Size and Scope of Evans’ Land

When Evans’ wife of 19 years sued him for divorce in January, court filings revealed the size and scope of his wealth.

Those records show a 2013 income for Evans of $2.34 million, and bank accounts and investments worth more than $2 million. He also has an ownership stake in 19 companies and trusts and is the sole owner in all but two of them.

The couple had been in mediation for several months after his wife sought to overturn a prenuptial agreement.

During this time, a judge’s order banned the couple from selling anything that could be considered marital property. This is standard in divorce cases.

Now that a judge has lifted the order, it is unclear whether any of the 78 pieces of property owned by Evans or one of his holding companies will be sold.

Evans owns a real estate portfolio valued at roughly $18.8 million, according to auditor records from Hamilton and Clermont counties and current listings for his property.

He controls large parcels of land throughout Newtown, including a site that was under contract to become a marijuana growing facility if voters had not defeated the issue in Ohio in November.

He also had promoted a new route for Ohio 32 that would have run through some of his land and opened up the rest for development. But in June the Ohio Department of Transportation killed plans for the controversial reroute of that highway.

ODOT is now looking at what improvements can be made to improve traffic along Ohio 32. It will add a connector road to the Ancor area in Anderson Township’s northern valley. This is the last sizable parcel of undeveloped industrial and commercial land in Hamilton County.

There are two significant landowners in the Ancor area: Martin Marietta, which is a mining operation, and Evans Landscaping.

Perhaps Evans’ most expensive properties are two large warehouses priced at more than $9 million combined, which have been on the market since 2013.

The site at 8361 Broadwell Road contains two warehouse buildings with a combined 133,000-square-feet of space. The sale price is $2.65 million. It is owned by Broadwell Investment Company, LLC, which Evans owns a 100 percent stake in, according to court and real estate records.

The site at 8485 Broadwell Road contains is a 24-acre complex with an adjoining 29 acres for sale. It offers more than 432,000 square feet of office, manufacturing and warehouse space and is listed at $6.5 million, according to the website of the listing agent, Frank Torbeck of Everest Commercial Real Estate Services.

The owners of two parcels of land at 8485 Broadwell are Broadwell Factory Group, LLC, and BRL Development Company, LLC. Court records show that Evans owns 100 percent stake in both companies.

Perhaps the land deal that got Evans the most attention was when he and neighbor Norb Mayrhofer bought Ivy Hills Country Club in March 2014.

The pair committed $1.2 million to acquire the property and about $600,000 toward improvements to the course and clubhouse, Mayrhofer told WCPO in March, while vowing to reinvest all profits in club improvements.

Evans is co-owner and president of the club, and Mayrhofer is co-owner and chairman, according to Ivy Hills Country Club’s website.

The golf course and adjoining land had been valued at more than $3 million in 2014. But after an appeal to the auditor’s board of revision this year, the total market value was changed to $550,000, according to auditor’s records.