CINCINNATI — A judge sentenced the former Evans Landscaping employee and front man for a phony minority contracting company to two years of probation on Tuesday.
Korey Jordan, a key witness in the fraud case against Evans Landscaping owner Doug Evans, did not speak during his brief sentencing hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Michael Barrett.
But Jordan’s testimony during a November 2018 trial helped to convict the high-profile Newtown businessman.
“I’m a black man in this city and I did this and I shouldn’t have done it,” Jordan testified. “I went against my belief system … I let down my race.”
Jordan, a longtime IT worker at Evans Landscaping, testified that he acted as the front for a new company – Ergon Site Construction – created in 2008 to win millions in minority demolition contracts with the state and the city of Cincinnati as the recession deepened.
“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.
Jordan pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in exchange for his testimony.
If the men ever got caught, Jordan testified that Evans told him he would say, “I was just trying to help a brother out.”
“He was playing the reverse race card … that was the stance he told me he was going to take in court if we were exposed,” Jordan testified.
Evans took the witness stand at trial, insisting he was innocent. But the jury took four hours to convict him and vice president of operations Jim Bailey of three counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
"It is worth reminding the court that the letters in the name 'Ergon' could be rearranged to form the word 'Negro,'" Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim 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."
Of the six men convicted in the scheme, Evans was the first to go before Barrett for sentencing on Jan. 7 and the only one to get any prison time.
The judge sentenced Evans to 21 months in prison and 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.
The judge sentenced Bailey to six months of home confinement, three years of probation, 200 hours of community service and a $15,000 community service payment.
Bailey’s wife, Mary Bailey, was in court Tuesday. Afterward she repeatedly asked Jordan to “tell the truth.”
“My husband didn’t get a fair trial. The jury got it wrong,” Mary Bailey said, before a court security officer escorted her away from where Jordan was speaking with his attorney, Herbert Haas, in the hallway.
Jordan declined to speak to WCPO. But Haas said: “Korey wants to essentially accept his responsibility. He recognizes that what he did with Mr. Evans impacted people in this community who want to participate in programs to help minorities.”
In the past two weeks Barrett also sentenced three other former Evans employees who pleaded guilty and testified for prosecutors at trial, saying that fraudulent invoices, checks and photos were created to make Ergon seem like a legitimate minority business when in fact it was part of Evans.
Former general manager Mike Moeller, who bid minority state demolition jobs worth $10 million using Evans and Ergon, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Barrett sentenced him to one year of probation.
Former Evans Landscaping CFO Maurice Patterson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Barrett sentenced him to one year of probation.
Another former Evans CFO, John Dietrich, pleaded guilty to misprision, or concealment, of a felony, for his role in the scheme. Barrett sentenced him to one year of probation.
Prosecutors had asked the judge to ban Evans Landscaping from doing any public work for three years, but the judge declined.
A day after Evans' conviction, Cincinnati City Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard filed a motion to permanently bar companies convicted of fraud from ever winning city contracts.
The judge gave Evans a three-month delay before he must report to prison. His attorney, Ben Dusing, hinted to reporters on Jan. 7 that an appeal to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals was imminent.
Dusing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.