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Businessman pleads guilty to bribing Atlanta and DeKalb County officials

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The former executive vice president of PRAD Group Inc. pleaded guilty to paying bribes to two City of Atlanta officials in exchange for steering city business worth millions of dollars to his company, to paying bribes to a former DeKalb County, Georgia, official in an attempt to obtain county contracts, and to evading over $1.5 million in taxes. 

According to court documents, Lohrasb “Jeff” Jafari, 72, of Alpharetta, Georgia, oversaw PRAD Group’s finances. From 1984 to 2018, PRAD Group was an architectural, design, and construction management firm headquartered in Atlanta that performed services for the City of Atlanta and DeKalb County.

From January 2003 to February 2017, Adam Smith was the Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) for the City of Atlanta and supervised the city’s purchasing activities and its expenditure of billions of dollars of public money. From April 2011 to May 2016, Jo Ann Macrina served as the City of Atlanta’s Commissioner of the Department of Watershed Management, a cabinet-level position from which she managed the city’s drinking water and wastewater systems and was responsible for an annual budget exceeding $500 million.

Jafari gave Smith and Macrina cash and other items of value to obtain business with the City of Atlanta. In exchange for those payments, Smith and Macrina conspired with Jafari to ensure that PRAD Group received city business worth millions of dollars, including by agreeing to replace two evaluators on the selection team for the city’s architectural and engineering contract and to re-score an evaluation so that Jafari’s company would be awarded a contract.

During Smith’s tenure as the CPO, the City of Atlanta awarded contracts worth millions of dollars to PRAD Group and joint venture projects of which PRAD Group was a partner. For years, Jafari met privately with Smith on multiple occasions, frequently at local restaurants. During these meetings, Jafari and Smith discussed City of Atlanta procurement projects, bids, and solicitations, often while Jafari was actively seeking additional work and/or assistance with ongoing city projects. After most of the meetings, Jafari paid Smith $1,000 in cash in the bathroom of the restaurant. In return for these bribe payments, Jafari expected Smith to use his position and power to assist Jafari with contracting and procurement with the City of Atlanta. From at least 2014 to January 2017, Jafari paid Smith more than $40,000 in cash with the intent to influence Smith in his role as the city’s CPO.

In February 2017, Jafari became aware of the federal investigation into his bribe payments to Smith. In response, Jafari confronted Smith at City Hall to convince Smith to lie to the FBI by instructing Smith to deny taking bribe money from him. 

From at least 2013 through May 2016, Macrina met with Jafari to discuss City of Atlanta procurement projects, bids, and solicitations, often while Jafari was actively seeking contracts, projects, and work with the City of Atlanta. To obtain city work, Jafari promised Macrina a lucrative job with PRAD Group and, directly or through a PRAD Group employee, gave Macrina $10,000 in cash, jewelry, a room at a luxury hotel and luxury shopping trip in Dubai, and landscaping work at her home. Shortly after the City of Atlanta fired her, Macrina began working for Jafari and PRAD Group. Between June and September 2016, Jafari and/or PRAD Group paid Macrina $30,000 in four separate payments.

On April 8 and Aug. 21, 2014, the FBI conducted two undercover operations using a confidential source (who at the time was a high-ranking DeKalb County official). During the surreptitiously recorded meetings, the confidential source met with Jafari at local restaurants, where Jafari sought assistance from the confidential source to obtain work in DeKalb County. After the meetings, Jafari directed the confidential source to the bathroom of the restaurants where Jafari paid the confidential source between $1,000 and $1,500 in cash.

From 2014 to 2016, Jafari neither filed personal tax returns, nor paid any income taxes to the IRS. During those years, Jafari withdrew large amounts of cash from corporate bank accounts and took money from the PRAD Group’s corporate accounts to pay for various personal expenses, including several luxury vehicles. Jafari evaded the payment of at least $1.5 million in taxes.

Jafari pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiratorial bribery, substantive bribery, and tax evasion. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 19 and faces a statutory maximum of five years in prison for conspiracy to commit bribery, 10 years for substantive bribery, and five years for tax evasion. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

In January 2018, Smith was sentenced to two years and three months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiratorial bribery. In February 2023, Macrina was sentenced to four years and six months in prison after being convicted at trial of conspiratorial and substantive bribery.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan for the Northern District of Georgia, Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, and Special Agent in Charge James E. Dorsey of the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Atlanta Field Office made the announcement.

The FBI Atlanta Field Office and IRS-CI are investigating the case.

Trial Attorney Jolee Porter of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section, Trial Attorney Todd Ellinwood of the Tax Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey W. Davis and Nathan P. Kitchens for the Northern District of Georgia are prosecuting the case.

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