Friday, April 9, 2021

Former Jacksonville City Council members start prison terms for fraud

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Former Jacksonville City Council members Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown have begun serving prison terms for fraud convictions involving false billing for a failed barbecue sauce factory.

Katrina Brown, 40, entered the women’s camp at Federal Correctional Institution-Coleman in Central Florida on Friday, scheduled for release June 1, 2023.

Reggie Brown, 58, reported to FCI-Jesup in Wayne County, Ga. to serve a term scheduled to end May 8, 2022, prison records show.

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The two, who are not related, were sentenced in October for dozens of counts including mail and wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.

None of the crimes involved their roles as council members, but they were suspended from office soon after their May 2018 indictments.

In October 2019, a jury found Katrina Brown guilty of 37 counts, and Reggie Brown guilty of 33 counts, most of which involved misleading a lender financing a project by Katrina Brown’s family to open a barbecue sauce factory on Commonwealth Avenue.

The lender paid invoices Katrina Brown’s family received from companies working on the launch, and Katrina Brown submitted invoices from two companies organized in Reggie Brown’s name that prosecutors said performed almost no work.

During the 2019 trial, an FBI accountant testified that about half of the $286,000 in income he tracked through those companies’ bank records ended up being paid to Katrina Brown or her family’s businesses, which was the basis for the money-laundering charges.

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Both sentences that U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard imposed were lighter that sentencing guidelines recommended.

Katrina Brown is serving her time at the same minimum-security camp in Sumter County where septuagenarian former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, also not related, served 27 months for a fraud conviction before being released last spring because of health concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reggie Brown’s prison is also a place where white-collar criminals have been sentenced, including Roger Stone, the political consultant and friend of former President Donald Trump convicted of lying to federal investigators under oath and obstructing a Congressional investigation. Stone had been scheduled to enter Jesup last July, but Trump commuted his sentence days before his report date.

Jesup has medium-, low- and minimum-security facilities, the latter presumably being where Reggie Brown will spend his term.

The prison complex holds a mix of inmates serving time for white-collar and drug crimes, and prison officials worked in the past to reinforce rules that inmates were breaking. Last year, the U.S. Justice Department announced a crackdown, saying it had filed new charges against 20 Jesup prisoners accused of having contraband cell phones, distributing drugs in prison, assault and other crimes.

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