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Cincinnati landscaper accused of fraud over minority contracts

Did a large Cincinnati landscaping company set up a shell company in order to deceive the city and state so that it could win contracts earmarked for small businesses or minority-owned companies?

Those are essentially the allegations against the owner of Evans Landscaping, a prominent figure in the Cincinnati business community. Aside from fraud and deceptive business practices, the owner is also accused of wire fraud. If convicted of all the charges, the company owner could be sentenced to 103 years in prison.

According to the prosecution, the landscaper used a number of deceptions to maintain the ruse that the shell company was separate from his own. He would make his employees switch their shirts so that they appeared to be working for the shell company when they were on certain job sites. He used magnetic covers on his own company's trucks to hide the company logo so that he could pass the trucks off as belonging to the shell company. He also arranged for photos, documenting their work, to be altered before they were sent to the state in an effort to hide the presence of his company's trucks on certain sites.

The defense asserts that the landscaper was just trying to help out a friend by setting him up in business with a substantial loan and teaching him the ropes of the landscaping trade. However, numerous witnesses involved in various levels of the business or government have already testified that the landscaper was firmly in control of the minority business at all times -- and that it wasn't the first time this has happened.

Many of the witnesses who are testifying were concerned about their own legal liabilities. However, they largely have been given immunity from prosecution in exchange for their testimony. More than 100 people are expected to testify.

Cases like this illustrate how complex white collar criminal trials are. Prosecutors can pull out all the stops and dig into nearly every aspect of a business as they look for possible charges. They'll often grant immunity to any "small fish" in order to gain a conviction of a larger target. If you're being investigated, an experienced criminal defense attorney can protect your rights.

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