- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2006

The financial officer for one of the District’s most prominent development companies has been indicted on conspiracy and federal tax-evasion charges.

The charges against John E. Brownell, chief financial officer for Douglas Development Corp., come months after federal authorities indicted company President Douglas Jemal and two other executives amid an investigation into corruption in the city’s Office of Property Management.

Mr. Brownell’s attorney, Barry Coburn, said yesterday his client disputes the indictment, which was filed Tuesday.

“We are very disappointed that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has seen fit to indict Mr. Brownell, and we look forward to the opportunity to vindicate him at trial,” he said.

The 18-page indictment states Mr. Brownell received “secret payments” from the company president and another individual at the company, identified only as “Conspirator A.” Mr. Jemal is the company president.

Prosecutors said Mr. Brownell failed to file federal income-tax returns from 1994 to 1998 and that he evaded paying income taxes from 1998 to 2003.

According to the indictment, Mr. Brownell understated his income from Douglas Development, reporting standard wages and earnings but failing to report tens of thousands of dollars in income each year.

A U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman said yesterday the conspiracy and tax-evasion charges against Mr. Brownell each carry a maximum of five years in prison.

In October, Mr. Jemal, his son, Norman, and Douglas Development leasing official Blake Esherick pleaded not guilty to charges they gave a D.C. official $25,000 and gifts for favorable leasing deals with the city.

Michael Lorusso, former deputy in the D.C. Office of Property Management, pleaded guilty last year to bribery charges and has been cooperating with prosecutors.

Prosecutors said the bribes included $1,000 for two pairs of cowboy boots, hotel stays in Las Vegas and private box tickets to Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals games.

In exchange, Mr. Lorusso helped arrange for the District to lease properties from Douglas Development, officials said.

Douglas and Norman Jemal each face 40 years in prison, and Mr. Esherick faces 45 years if convicted, prosecutors have said.

Douglas Jemal said that he, his son and Mr. Esherick dispute the charges and look forward to going to trial.

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