An Atlanta businessman allegedly paid more than $40,000 in bribes to Atlanta attorney Adam Smith for three years while Smith was the chief procurement officer at City Hall, according to a federal indictment unsealed Wednesday.
When federal agents engaged in an ongoing corruption investigation zeroed in on Smith in February 2017, Lohrasb “Jeff” Jafari urged Smith to either deny he took any money from him or to label them as loans that Smith later repaid, the indictment alleges.
If Smith stuck with the loan story, Jafari allegedly said in one taped conversation, “We can both walk away from it.” And even though Jafari allegedly paid Smith in $1,000 increments from 2014 to 2017, the businessman warned the lawyer, “Don’t ever say $1,000 because that is one year in jail.”
Jafari also insisted that he and Smith should “stay on the same page” about any money paid to Smith. “Adam, we’re in trouble if you don’t,” Jafari allegedly said, according to the indictment. “If you cave in, I’m f—ed.”
On Wednesday, a federal judge in Atlanta unsealed a 51-count indictment against Jafari, an executive vice president at PRAD Group Inc. PRAD—an architectural, design and construction management firm headquartered in Atlanta—has secured millions of dollars in contracts from the city with Smith’s help, the indictment alleges.
The charges include conspiracy, witness tampering, multiple counts of bribery, tax evasion, money laundering and multiple counts of structuring—a charge associated with efforts to avoid federal cash reporting requirements by dividing deposits of more than $10,000 into smaller increments.
Jafari was scheduled to make a first appearance in federal court on Wednesday afternoon.
“Jeff Jafari allegedly paid multiple bribes to two local officials over a period of years and then attempted to obstruct the federal investigation into his misconduct,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak following Jafari’s the hearing. “He also failed to pay income taxes on millions of dollars he earned from city contracts. Instead, he used the funds to live a lavish lifestyle. Whether you bribe, take a bribe, or otherwise misuse the public’s money to enrich yourself—it’s all corruption. We will vigorously pursue any such cases.”
Atlanta attorney Steve Sadow, Jafari’s lead defense counsel, said Wednesday, “Mr. Jafari is innocent of the charges against him. He has always endeavored to conduct business in an honorable and lawful manner. The allegations that he has willfully, corruptly or knowingly engaged in misconduct are untrue. Mr. Jafari intends to mount a vigorous defense and looks forward to a fair and unbiased jury finding him not guilty.”
Smith—who left a partnership at Holland & Knight for a city hall post in 2003—is currently serving a 27-month prison sentence for taking bribes and has surrendered his state bar license. More than 70 people wrote letters to the sentencing judge on Smith’s behalf, among them a former dean at Georgetown University Law Center, partners with Holland & Knight and Smith, Gambrell & Russell in Atlanta, a former Baltimore prosecutor who is now director of black church studies at Yale University, and an advocate of the High Court of South Africa.
According to the indictment, Jafari met privately with Smith “on multiple occasions,” often at local restaurants where Smith provided him with “information and counsel” on city procurement projects, bids and solicitations.
At the end of most of those meetings, Jafari gave Smith $1,000, usually in exchanges that took place in restaurant bathrooms, the indictment said. Those payments totaled more than $40,000 and were intended to influence Smith to give preference to PRAD in its joint ventures for city contracts, the indictment alleges.
The indictment also alleged that whenever PRAD or one of its joint ventures secure city work, all of the associated work and purchase orders were routed through Smith for approval.