CINCINNATI — On Jan. 7, 2020, a federal judge sentenced well-known Evans Landscaping owner Doug Evans to 21 months in prison for fraudulently taking millions in government demolition jobs that were meant for minority businesses.
Now, a year later, Evans has not served any of that prison time, and his attorney is asking U.S. District Court Judge Michael Barrett to take prison off the table altogether.
Barrett presided over Evans' month-long trial that ended when a jury found him guilty in December 2018 -- which is more than two years ago.
Since then, Barrett has delayed Evans’ report date to prison on five separate occasions.
“For good cause shown and due to the current public health concerns as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the defendant’s Bureau of Prisons report date is extended from January 8, 2021 until April 9, 2021,” Barrett wrote in a Dec. 21 order.
This is the fourth time Barrett has delayed the prison report date because Evans’ attorney, Ben Dusing, insisted his client's poor health would put him at risk of contracting COVID-19 while in prison. He wants the high-profile Newtown entrepreneur to serve his punishment through home confinement.
“He is a first-time, non-violent offender," Dusing wrote in a July 1 motion. "He does not request a reduction of the time of the home confinement, but simply that he not be exposed to such extreme danger the (prison) poses to him during this pandemic.”
Barrett asked attorneys months ago to coordinate a date for a court hearing on that motion. But to date, no court date has been set.
Evans is scheduled to serve his sentence at Ashland Federal Correctional Institution. This low-security prison in Eastern Kentucky houses 963 inmates, in combination with its adjacent satellite camp.
The most recent data from the Bureau of Prisons website shows that 571 Ashland inmates have been tested for COVID and 363 have tested positive for the virus.
Evans faces “serious illness or death if placed in (prison) custody” because of his advanced age at 58, obesity, hypertension, prediabetes, sleep apnea and the removal of his spleen years earlier, Dusing wrote.
“Evans had his spleen surgically removed because of a medical condition known as idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. The lack of a spleen leaves a patient like Evans immunocompromised for the rest of his life,” Dusing wrote in court filings.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Mangan opposes home confinement.
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,'" 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."
After the verdict, Glassman told WCPO that this case should be a warning to other business owners who may consider doing something illegal.
“That is part of the goal of this, and any prosecution -- a message of general deterrence,” Glassman said. “Folks who are in a position to cut a corner to gain an unfair advantage should think twice before going down the path of committing fraud.”
The FBI began investigating Evans in late 2013, interviewing 70 people and conducting surveillance on Ergon job sites to see if Evans equipment and employees were being used by the supposedly minority owned company.
Agents raided Evans Landscaping locations in Newtown in July 2015. Nearly two years later, a grand jury handed down indictments in the case.
A judge sentenced Evans Landscaping vice president of operations Jim Bailey, who was convicted at trial with Evans, to six months of home confinement, three years of probation, 200 hours of community service and a $15,000 community service payment.
A judge sentenced Jordan, who was the front man for Ergon, to two years of probation after he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
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.
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.
Evans has appealed his conviction to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.