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Prosecutors' final witness in Doug Evans wire fraud trial may testify on Monday

Posted at 7:33 AM, Dec 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-03 07:33:32-05

CINCINNATI - Federal prosecutors will likely call their final witness on Monday in the wire fraud case against Evans Landscaping owner Doug Evans.

As trial enters its fourth week before U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett, prosecutors are on the verge of resting their case against the prominent Newtown businessman.

On Monday former Evans Landscaping CFO John Dietrich is expected to testify. He pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony for helping to hide the conspiracy, according to prosecutors.

Two other former Evans Landscaping managers also signed plea deals admitting their guilt and testified at trial: former CFO Maurice Patterson and former manager Michael Moeller.

The man at the center of the case – Korey Jordan -- also pleaded guilty and testified against Evans. He was an IT employee and youth football coach with Evans, who became the owner of an alleged front company – Ergon Site Construction – used to win millions in minority and small business contracts.

“I’m a black man in this city and I did this and I shouldn’t have done it,” Korey Jordan testified on Nov. 19, wiping away tears. “I went against my belief system.”

Ergon won dozens of demolition contracts from the state and city of Cincinnati from 2010 to 2014, worth millions.

Al Taylor, assistant supervisor with the city of Cincinnati's buildings and inspections department, testified in Doug Evans criminal trial in U.S. District Court this week. Illustration by Kevin Necessary.

“Basically I had to keep Ergon compliant … and sign checks,” Jordan testified, admitting that he regularly signed 20 blank Ergon checks at a time for Evans.

Although Jordan was the owner of Ergon, he testified that he controlled no money and had no decision-making power. He had to ask Evans to pay for all routine expenses, such as gas or a new laptop.

In June 2017, a grand jury indicted Doug Evans and his vice president of operations, Jim Bailey, on six charges related to wire fraud. They face up to 103 years in prison if convicted.

Many former Evans and Ergon employees testified that the small company was never independent. They said Evans employees worked on Ergon job sites, simply switching uniforms. And large Ergon magnets were used to cover up the Evans logo on trucks.

“I told him that it was a bad idea,” longtime advisor Tony Schweier testified on Nov. 29. “He didn’t agree with me.”

Schweier, who is a shareholder at Cincinnati accounting firm Clark Schaefer Hackett & Co., has become a crucial figure in this case.

Ben Dusing, attorney for Doug Evans, delivers an opening statement to the jury on Tuesday, November 13, 2018. Illustration by Kevin Necessary | WCPO.

That’s because Evans' attorney, Ben Dusing, has insisted the idea for Ergon actually came from Schweier, and that his client was simply following the advice of a trusted advisor.

Dusing and Eric Eckes, an attorney for Jim Bailey, spent more than six hours cross-examining Schweier on Nov. 30, challenging him on what he knew about Ergon.

If Ergon was truly a front company, as prosecutors allege, then why did Schweier continue to work on it for Evans, defense attorneys asked him repeatedly.

“I continued to express concerns about the arrangement,” Schweier testified.

Over the years, Schweier said he tried to discourage Evans from continuing with Ergon. He finally ended his 22-year relationship with Evans in November 2014.

Eckes asked him why he prepared a tax document for Ergon, when Evans Landscaping was paying his bill.

Evans Landscaping vice president of operations, Jim Bailey, faces trial with Doug Evans. Illustration by: Kevin Necessary.

“Did you warn them (his accounting team) that they were committing a federal crime when they did that?” Eckes asked.

The judge sustained an objection to that question, so Schweier did not answer it. Schweier has not been charged with a crime.

Defense attorneys also repeatedly asked Schweier if he lied about Ergon when he wrote in an email that Korey Jordan actually controlled the company during the recruitment of new accountant.

“I did not consider it a lie,” Schweier testified.