Wednesday, February 12, 2003

FBI raids office of missing developer


Affidavit: $92K is gone, too

By Dan Horn
and Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FBI agents raided the Vine Street office of would-be developer LaShawn R. Pettus-Brown Tuesday as part of their investigation into how the city of Cincinnati lost $184,172 on the ill-fated Empire Theater project.

The agents seized records and equipment in an attempt to learn more about what happened to Pettus-Brown, who accepted thousands of dollars in city loans and grants and then failed to deliver on his promise to fix up the 89-year-old Over-the-Rhine landmark.

City officials have not heard from Pettus-Brown, a professional basketball player in Japan, since declaring the project in default last month.

In a search warrant affidavit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, FBI Special Agent Matthew W. Drake provided new details about the investigation, disclosing for the first time that $92,915 of the money the city paid to Pettus-Brown is missing.

City officials previously believed that all of the $184,217 went for work on the theater, but that the project collapsed because Pettus-Brown couldn't get a bank to finance the project.

Pettus-Brown wrote five bad checks totaling $33,850 to a construction contractor for work at the Empire Theater site, according to the affidavit.

Oddly, Pettus-Brown would write two or three checks on the same day to RLE Construction, said RLE president Rich Enyeart.

"I asked him why he did that. He said, `My accountant told me I should do it this way,' " Enyeart said Tuesday. "I think he was his own accountant."

All five checks - written in July and August - bounced.

That was news to Assistant City Manager Rashad Young, who said Tuesday the city had no idea that contractors weren't being paid.

"Nobody told us that. To me, that sounds like a problem," Young said. If the city had known, officials would have pulled the plug on the project in July or August, instead of waiting until September, he said.

Enyeart said that, unlike private-sector projects in which checks are made out to the developer and contractor jointly, the city's checks were written directly to Pettus-Brown, a 26-year-old with no development record.

E-mail dhorn@enquirer.com and gkorte@enquirer.com




TOP STORIES
Taft weighs temporary sales-tax rise
Snowfall dry, fluffy, lovely - and deadly
Scuffling possible, shooting witness says
Costs push debate on W. Chester center site

IN THE TRISTATE
Arts group, coalition settle pair of lawsuits
FBI raids office of missing developer
Suit filed over Krings contract
Property plan kept on the hook in Norwood
Cons might get out of crowded jail early
Children's Hospital opposes cuts
Obituary: Joe Dippong, 'Mr. Spoons'
Tristate A.M. Report

ENQUIRER COLUMNISTS
SMITH AMOS: Scars of racism still sear
BRONSON: Cop shooting
GUTIERREZ: Call your legislator
KORTE: City Hall
HOWARD: Some Good News

BUTLER, WARREN, CLERMONT
Realtors in uproar over tax increase
Butler commissioner calls for housing official ouster
More lead tests above standard
2 picked to head search
Clermont OKs online payments
Talawanda board to close Stewart Elementary
Zoning board delays vote on requiring larger lots
Death increases charge in accident
Village pushes renewal
Slaying suspect gets earlier review
Ohio Moments

KENTUCKY
Epling inspires new bill
Pupils write pleas for school
Kentucky News Briefs
Danville pastors protest school play
Memorial could beautify corner
House defeats bill to ban smoking in college dorms
N.Ky.'s Ziegler remembered as a hard-charger