Sunday October 25th, 2020 3:16PM

Former executive charged with bribing Atlanta official

By The Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — A former executive with a longtime city of Atlanta vendor accused of paying bribes to the city's former chief procurement officer to secure contracts for work faces dozens of charges in a federal indictment unsealed Wednesday.

The 51-count indictment against Lohrasb "Jeff" Jafari includes charges of bribery, tax evasion, money laundering and witness tampering. Jafari is the seventh person to be charged in an ongoing federal investigation into corruption at Atlanta City Hall.

Jafari's attorney Steve Sadow said Jafari is innocent of the charges and intends to vigorously defend himself in court.

"He has always endeavored to conduct business in an honorable and lawful manner," Sadow said in an email. "The allegations that he has willfully, corruptly or knowingly engaged in misconduct are untrue."

Jafari, who was arrested Wednesday, entered a not guilty plea later in the afternoon and a magistrate judge agreed that he could be released on a $100,000 signature bond.

Jafari, 68, was the executive vice president of PRAD Group, which has provided architectural, design and engineering services for the city since 1984, the indictment says. PRAD Group referred a request for comment to Sadow.

From at least 2014 through January 2017, Jafari met privately with then-chief procurement officer Adam Smith on multiple occasions to discuss city procurement projects, bids and solicitations, the indictment says. During that time, Jafari paid Smith more than $40,000 in cash "with the intent to influence Smith" in his role as chief procurement officer, the indictment says.

The indictment specifically mentions eight meetings in November 2016, December 2016 and January 2017, during which it says Jafari and Smith met and talked in Atlanta restaurants and then Jafari would generally give Smith $1,000 in cash in the bathroom.

In exchange, Smith met with Jafari, gave him information and advice about the city's procurement processes and steered city contracts to his company, the indictment says.

Smith pleaded guilty to a single conspiracy charge in September 2017. He was sentenced in January 2018 to serve two years and three months in prison and was ordered to pay $44,000 in restitution and a $25,000 fine.

Smith recorded conversations he had with others before the FBI approached him and then recorded conversations at the request of the FBI, prosecutors have said. He also met with the FBI multiple times and provided valuable information.

Prosecutors had not publicly revealed the name of the person accused of paying bribes to Smith until Wednesday.

The indictment against Jafari says that once Jafari became aware of the federal investigation in February 2017, he tried to get Smith to lie to law enforcement officers. Jafari told Smith, "you've gotta deny the money" and say the payments were "a loan," the indictment says. Jafari told Smith they needed to coordinate their stories about the payments and "stay on the same page," the indictment says.

The indictment also says Jafari bribed a DeKalb County official but does not provide details.

Jafari also tried to avoid paying more than $1 million in taxes on taxable income over several years by withdrawing cash from corporate accounts, using corporate funds for personal expenses, transferring corporate money to his wife's personal account, directing his in-house bookkeeper to not record transactions in a way that would be reported as income and to supply false internal accounting records to his tax return preparer, the indictment says.

Money laundering charges stem from transactions made with funds Jafari received from city work obtained while he was paying bribes to Smith, prosecutors said.

Five people have pleaded guilty and been sentenced to prison as a result of the Atlanta corruption investigation. They include former Mayor Kasim Reed's deputy chief of staff, the city's former chief procurement officer, two construction contractors and a man who tried to intimidate one of the construction contractors to keep him from talking to federal investigators.

Former city director of human services and political consultant Mitzi Bickers is accused of soliciting and accepting payments to help steer lucrative city contracts to two construction contractors and their companies. She has pleaded not guilty.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News, AP Online - Georgia News, AP Online Headlines - Georgia News
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