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Home#OpEdDetroit News Lays Out The Brandon Johnson Drug Lord Conviction

Detroit News Lays Out The Brandon Johnson Drug Lord Conviction

The Story Never Changes With NAMFS Members, Only The Victim's Names

Brandon Johnson, former NAMFS member and GTJ Consulting‘s President’s $10 Million in embezzlement for drugs continues to be a thorn in the side of the Industry. #TwoForVerisk, NAMFS Executive Director, Eric Miller, and NAMFS President Matt Zoldowski already are under a cloud of suspicion with respect to a potential antitrust situation with Verisk controlling the only software used in the Property Preservation Industry sans inspections. And when Foreclosurepedia broke the story, back in 2018, building on GTJ’s inability to pay on Fannie Mae contracts going all the way back to 2014, no one wanted to hear about it.

Well, you cannot avoid what Robert Snell, Detroit News, wrote on 02 February 2023. Here is a link to the original article below,

Detroit — The CEO of a government contracting company embezzled from the firm and spent more than $10 million on pain pills, according to federal criminal cases that describe an outsized series of drug deals amid the nation’s opioid crisis.

The misappropriation and drug binge are detailed in federal court filings charging former GTJ Consulting CEO Brandon Johnson and his alleged drug dealer, Grosse Pointe Park resident Matthew Adams. They have been charged with a variety of tax-related financial crimes stemming from large-volume, big-dollar drug deals in a region ravaged by opioid-related overdoses.

Johnson, 44, of St. Clair Shores, a well-known figure who coaches junior varsity baseball at the prestigious University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe Woods, is portrayed in court records as an addict with access to both a big bankroll and a drug dealer with an endless supply of opioids. He has pleaded guilty to two tax crimes while Adams is scheduled to plead guilty to crimes Feb. 14.

Interviews and court filings raise questions, however, about disparate treatment between the CEO and Adams, 36, a man with a learning disability whose lawyer describes as being taken advantage of by Johnson and treated unfairly by federal prosecutors.

“It’s the most disparate treatment I have seen in this district in 37 years of practice,” Adams’ lawyer, Sanford Plotkin, wrote in an email to The Detroit News.

A Justice Department spokeswoman and prosecutor did not respond to a message seeking comment.

The alleged crimes happened in the background as Johnson helped establish his St. Clair Shores building maintenance company as a government contractor. The firm boasts of its public-sector work with the city of Detroit, Oakland County, Detroit Public Schools Community District, Detroit and Wayne County land banks and government-controlled mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Johnson’s brother, current company President and CEO Blake Johnson, said GTJ Consulting was victimized by the embezzlement and that the wrongdoing had no impact on clients.

“Immediately upon discovery of Brandon Johnson’s legal issues in 2017, Brandon Johnson was immediately terminated from company employment, was removed as an officer, and has had no involvement with the company since that date,” Blake Johnson wrote in an email to The News.

Brandon Johnson has taken responsibility for his crimes and cooperated with investigators, said defense lawyer Eric Nemeth. He dismissed Adams’ claims about unfair treatment.

“The dealer blaming the addict — seriously?” Nemeth told The Detroit News.

The drug dealing unfolded amid the ongoing opioid crisis. Opioids, including pain medications like oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone, were involved in 68,630 overdose deaths nationwide in 2020, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Michigan, the number of deaths from opioid overdoses ballooned from 118 to 2,809 deaths from 1999-2021, according to state data.

Traces of the Johnson investigation emerged in a bare-bones criminal case filed in federal court in Detroit in December 2020. In that case, Johnson was charged with two counts of filing a false tax return and accused of spending millions of dollars of misappropriated funds on “personal purchases.” The criminal filing does not mention drugs.

The court filing also does not mention St. Clair Shores-based GTJ Consulting. Instead, prosecutors refer to “Company A,” but Adams’ lawyer has confirmed that “Company A” is GTJ and Blake Johnson confirmed his company was victimized by Brandon Johnson’s misappropriation.

Johnson’s criminal case covered tax years 2014-15 and accused him of failing to report $3,349,510 in income, resulting in a tax loss of more than $1.4 million. Each tax charge is punishable by up to three years in federal prison.

Johnson pleaded guilty to both counts in January 2021. Terms of his plea deal with federal prosecutors offered the first indication that a large quantity of drugs were involved in the crimes.

Brandon Johnson admitted misappropriating money from 2008-17 to illegally buy opioids for personal use, according to terms of a plea agreement filed in federal court.

Johnson paid with company checks and concealed them in company records “by making them appear to be written to legitimate vendors,” the plea deal reads.

“(Johnson) understood his opioid purchases were personal in nature and not legitimate business expenses,” the plea deal adds.

Under the terms of the deal, prosecutors agreed not to prosecute Johnson for buying opioids in 2017 and prior years with misappropriated company funds and for failing to report money he misappropriated as income on tax returns from 2008-15. Prosecutors also agreed not to pursue charges for failing to timely file individual tax returns from 2016-17 and for any incorrect corporate tax returns in 2017 and prior years.

The approximate tax loss to the government from all of Johnson’s conduct is more than $4.8 million, according to the plea deal.

Johnson faces a sentencing guideline recommendation of 46-57 months in federal prison, though U.S. District Judge Matthew Leitman can disregard the guidelines and sentence Johnson to more or less time behind bars.

Sentencing has been delayed four times and the case lingered for two years amid the ongoing investigation.

More details emerged Jan. 5 when Adams was charged with a financial crime and with attempting to obstruct the administration of tax laws by making false statements to an IRS agent. GTJ and Johnson are not named in the criminal case. Instead, prosecutors refer to “Company A” and “Individual A,” which The News has confirmed are GTJ Consulting and Johnson.

Plus, a notation in the court file indicates the Adams case involves the same people as the Johnson case and the same transaction or substantially similar evidence.

The criminal case says Adams worked for “Company A” from 2004-12.

In 2012, Adams opened his own firm, MDA Property Services, to perform building and maintenance work.

“Company A” was Adams’ only customer. Their relationship was lucrative and illicit, prosecutors say.

Adams sold drugs to “Individual A” from 2008-17. Starting in 2010, all of the drugs were paid for with embezzled money from “Company A,” according to the criminal case.

“From 2013 through 2017, Adams was paid more than $10 million by Company A for illegal narcotics…” Justice Department Trial Attorneys Jeffrey McLellan and Sam Bean wrote in the criminal case.

Court records describe Johnson as buying large amounts of opioids for personal use, what would amount to as much as a half million pills based on the street value of the drugs at the time.

“Currently fentanyl/oxycodone pills sell for roughly $20 a pill at user levels, sometimes even more,” Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Brian McNeal wrote in an email to The Detroit News. “If purchased in bulk, hundreds to thousands of pills, we’ve seen the price go all the way down to as low as $1 per pill from Mexican sources of supply.”

The price would increase if the pills were prescription quality and it is possible Johnson was charged a steep markup. Drug dealers in Detroit can fetch higher prices in rural parts of the country.

For example, in recent years dozens of Detroiters have been charged with drug-related crimes on Indian reservations in North Dakota. That’s because oxycodone 30-milligram pills obtained in Detroit for less than $20 can be sold for $80 in those rural areas.

In the Adams case, he is accused of depositing “Company A” checks into his personal and MDA Property Services bank accounts and cashed some at a local liquor store, prosecutors wrote.

“From 2011 through 2017, Adams cashed more than $5.3 million in checks constituting the proceeds from his illegal narcotic sales at the liquor store, the Justice Department lawyers wrote.

Adams is accused of filling out tax forms that made his drug-dealing income appear like legitimate business income, according to the government.

The alleged tax and financial crimes surfaced in 2017 after Adams, his company and GTJ were audited by the IRS.

Adams lied to an IRS agent, saying he did not cash checks or fail to report income from “Company A,” according to the government.

“When later confronted about his check cashing activity by the revenue agent, Adams stated that he cashed checks as a favor to Individual A to provide Individual A with cash to use to gamble on sports,” the criminal case reads.

But Adams never gave Johnson gambling money, according to the government.

Adams also lied, saying 90% of the money from “Company A” was for legitimate work, prosecutors allege.

“In fact, only approximately three percent of the money MDA Property Services and Adams received from Company A from 2013 through 2017 was for legitimate work,” according to the criminal case.

“The rest was payment for illegal narcotics,” prosecutors added.

Adams was charged Jan. 5 with a financial crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison and trying to interfere with the investigation by giving false information to an IRS agent. He is scheduled to plead guilty Feb. 14.

“The government insists that Matt plead to a money laundering conspiracy charge that carries extremely high guidelines,” Plotkin, his lawyer, wrote in an email to The News.

“Matt Adams is learning disabled. Brandon Johnson stole millions of dollars from his family company, GTJ, devised, financed, and created the scheme to prey on my vulnerable client, who was in his early 20s, to go in the streets and obtain his pills,” he added.

“Matt never wanted anything but a job, and felt coerced into the scheme by Johnson, the CEO,” Plotkin added. “The government now gives Johnson a sweet deal, spares him any money laundering charge, yet insists that Adams take the fall and face almost four times as much prison time.”

A Justice Department spokesman did not respond to a message seeking comment.

GTJ’s rise in the building and maintenance industry coincided with Brandon Johnson’s drug problem.

The firm was created in early 2002 — the company name is the monogram of Brandon Johnson’s father Gene T. Johnson — to provide property preservation and maintenance services. Within a few years, the firm’s fortunes expanded amid the national foreclosure crisis and by 2010, GTJ Consulting had grown to 100 employees and grossed $20 million, according to Crain’s Detroit Business.

Amid the Great Recession, the company was maintaining about 10,000 homes in Michigan, including 3,000 foreclosures, according to the Ann Arbor News.

In 2010, GTJ started working as the primary preservation and maintenance contractor for The Detroit Land Bank Authority, which repairs and sells blighted and vacant properties. The Detroit Land Bank paid GTJ Consulting more than $5.6 million from 2014-19, a period that overlaps with the time Johnson admitted to embezzling from the company and buying drugs.

In 2013, the city hired GTJ to secure vacant firehouses as part of a broader plan to liquidate assets amid the city’s financial problems that culminated in a landmark bankruptcy case.

The firm has continued to win public contracts since Brandon Johnson’s departure in 2017.

The next year, GTJ won a $2.6 million contract to secure vacant Detroit school buildings and within months won a $2 million contract to demolish properties for the Detroit Building Authority.

The IRS audit concluded that GTJ officials correctly reported the company’s gross income despite the misappropriation, Blake Johnson wrote in an email to The News.

IRS officials allowed company officials to deduct the misappropriated money “as theft losses,” he added.

“The IRS imposed no penalties against GTJ as a result of its original tax reporting of the misappropriated funds, including negligence, fraud, underpayment or any other penalties,” Blake Johnson wrote.

Johnson did not provide any supporting documentation despite requests from The News.

“This episode has had no impact on our clients or the services we provide,” he added. “Consistent with our company’s core values and principles, the company operates with the highest ethical standards and has been successful because of the high quality of our services and the expertise we possess.

“Brandon’s situation was extremely unexpected and unfortunate, but as a result of decisive and immediate action, GTJ is in a stronger position today and remains focused on the future,” Blake Johnson added.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @robertsnellnews 

Paul Williams
Paul Williamshttps://foreclosurepedia.org
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