The owner and vice president of a Cincinnati landscaping company have been federally indicted on fraud charges nearly two years to the day after the FBI raided their Newtown, Ohio offices. Doug Evans, owner of Evans Landscaping, and Jim Bailey, vice president of operations, are under fire for allegedly creating a fake company to land public minority construction and demolition contracts.
Federal investigators allege that Evans Landscaping created Ergon Site Construction and fraudulently registered it as a minority-owned small business. They did this to win contracts from local and state governments that were intended for minority-owned small businesses as part of Ohio’s Encouraging Diversity, Growth and Equity (EDGE) program.
The FBI filing and other documents indicate that Evans loaned money to Ergon and its top officer, Korey Jordan, to help create that company. But there were ongoing questions as to whether it was actually Ergon doing the work, or if Evans Landscaping was using its own personnel and resources – thereby using Ergon as a front to land the public contracts. Estimates show that Ergon landed more than $10 million in state and local contracts.
Evans launched his landscape company out of the back of a pickup truck when he was 16 years old. He now owns 17 firms outright, and holds a 70 percent stake in two others. All of the property that Evans’ companies own make him one of the largest private landowners in Newtown.
Since the 2015 raid, federal authorities had been quiet on the proceedings that led them to haul off several of the company’s computers and thousands of documents. The raid of Evans’ offices and subsequent publicity led Cincinnati officials to change the city’s minority hiring practices, which included adding a separate check on the companies applying for contracts, instead relying solely on their state certifications.