Former City of Atlanta Commissioner of the Department of Watershed Management Jo Ann Macrina has been charged with conspiratorial bribery, bribery, and tax evasion in connection with money and other items of value that she accepted from City of Atlanta and DeKalb County contractor Lohrasb “Jeff” Jafari.
In March 2019, Jafari was charged in a 51 count indictment with conspiratorial bribery, bribery, tampering with a witness, tax evasion, money laundering, and structuring. Jafari was separately charged with one additional count of bribery and tampering with a witness in connection with bribes he paid to Macrina.
“Macrina allegedly decided that accepting bribes from Jafari was more important than following the rules established for contracting by the City of Atlanta – and thereby betrayed the public’s trust,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “In exchange for those bribe payments, Macrina manipulated the evaluation process to direct work to Jafari’s firm.”
“Circumventing the process to hire contractors for the city by accepting bribes to profit personally is the highest form of public corruption,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “It is extremely disturbing when the person alleged to have accepted bribes is the head of a department. Our public corruption squad is determined to hold those serving the public in positions of trust accountable.”
Macrina undermined the process of fair and open competition when she accepted bribes from a contractor in exchange for money and other things of value,” said James Dorsey, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation. “In addition, Macrina failed to report bribes and income on her income tax returns. The IRS is committed to aggressively investigating those individuals who engage in corruption. These actions demonstrate our collective efforts to enforce the law and ensure public trust.”
According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges, and other information presented in court: From April 2011 through May 20, 2016, Macrina served as the Commissioner of the Department of Watershed Management for the City of Atlanta. PRAD Group, Inc. (“PRAD Group”) was an architectural, design, and construction management and services firm with its headquarters and primary place of business in Atlanta, Georgia. Jafari was the Executive Vice President of PRAD Group at that time. During Macrina’s tenure, the City of Atlanta awarded contracts worth millions of dollars to PRAD Group and joint venture projects of which PRAD Group was a partner.
From at least from 2014 through May 20, 2016, Macrina met with Jafari alone and with others, including Adam Smith, the former Chief Procurement Officer, to discuss City of Atlanta procurement projects, bids, and solicitations. Often at the time of these meetings, Jafari was allegedly actively seeking contracts, projects, and work with the City of Atlanta. In July 2014, the City of Atlanta issued a request for proposal for architectural, engineering, and design services contract FC-7383. Vendors subsequently submitted proposals to earn an opportunity to be one of the firms to service this contract. By late 2014, evaluators chosen from various City departments met on several occasions to score the proposals. JP2, a joint venture led by PRAD Group, scored at the bottom of the rankings. Macrina and others then decided to conduct interviews with the proponent firms and reevaluate the proposals in an effort to alter the final scores. To ensure that certain firms were ultimately selected, Macrina replaced two evaluators that previously represented the Department of Watershed Management with herself and another individual. In July 2015, JP2 was selected as one of six vendor firms for FC-7383. In January 2016, Macrina issued two notices to proceed to JP2 for work for the Department of Watershed Management. Task Order One was valued at over $9 million. Task Order Two was valued at over $2 million.
During this time, Macrina discussed potential employment with Jafari and allegedly accepted items of value from Jafari in exchange for or as a reward for providing Jafari with access to information and preferential treatment with respect to City of Atlanta projects. In particular, Macrina allegedly accepted $10,000 in cash, jewelry, a room at a luxury hotel in Dubai, and landscaping work at her home from Jafari either directly or through an employee of PRAD. On May 20, 2016, Macrina’s employment ended with the City of Atlanta. Shortly thereafter, she began working for Jafari and PRAD Group. Between June 2016 and September 2016, Jafari and/or PRAD Group paid Macrina $30,000 in four separate payments. She did not report any of these funds on her 2016 income tax return.
Also beginning at least in 2014 to January 2017, Jafari paid thousands of dollars in bribe payments to Adam Smith, the then-Chief Procurement Officer of the City of Atlanta. Jafari and Smith met at Atlanta-area restaurants where they discussed City business, among other things, and Jafari would generally pay Smith $1,000 in cash in the restaurant bathroom. Jafari similarly paid bribes to a local official in DeKalb County in April and August of 2014. In exchange for Jafari’s payments to Smith, Smith met with Jafari regularly and provided Jafari with information and counsel regarding the City of Atlanta’s procurement processes, among other information. When PRAD Group or a joint venture in which PRAD Group was a partner became a successful proponent on a City of Atlanta contract or Request for Proposal, Smith approved and submitted the award of those projects. Smith also approved task and/or purchase orders for those projects.
In February 2017, Jafari became aware of the Federal investigation into his payments to Smith, at which time he confronted Smith in an effort to intimidate and persuade Smith to provide false information to federal law enforcement about the payments, instructing Smith to deny taking bribe money from Jafari. Similarly, following the execution of a federal search warrant at PRAD’s offices in 2017, Jafari instructed a PRAD employee to lie to the FBI about gifts that she purchased for Macrina on Jafari’s instructions while she and Macrina were traveling abroad in the spring of 2016.
Between 2014 through 2016, Jafari also willfully failed to pay income taxes to the IRS. During those years, Jafari withdrew large amounts of cash from corporate bank accounts and allegedly used corporate funds for personal expenses, among other things, to avoid the assessment of income tax. In 2014, Jafari owed at least $150,000; in 2015, at least $300,000; and in 2017, at least $700,000 to the IRS. Jafari is additionally charged with numerous counts of money laundering for engaging in financial transactions with funds earned from City of Atlanta work he obtained while he was paying bribes to Adam Smith and Jo Ann Macrina.
On February 26, 2019, a grand jury returned an indictment against Jafari, 69, of Alpharetta, Georgia, on 51 federal charges, including conspiratorial bribery, bribery, tampering with a witness, tax evasion, money laundering, and structuring. On June 16, 2020, a grand jury again indicted him on these 51 charges in addition to two new charges relating to payments to Macrina. On June 16, 2020, the grand jury also returned an indictment against Macrina, 63, of Daytona Beach, Florida, on one count each of conspiratorial bribery, bribery, and tax evasion.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictments only contains charges. The defendants are presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendants’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation are investigating these cases.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jill E. Steinberg, Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division, Jeffrey W. Davis, Chief of the Public Integrity Section, and Nathan P. Kitchens, Deputy Chief of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Section, are prosecuting the case.