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    Ex-aide testifies boss urged him to lie

    A former housing authority deputy director tells the court about a $3,000 cash transaction.

    By JEFF TESTERMAN

    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 13, 2001


    TAMPA -- In the midst of a federal investigation into the Tampa Housing Authority, agency boss Audley Evans asked an employee to lie about $3,000 in cash converted to a cashier's check, the employee testified Monday.

    Earl Haynes, former deputy executive director at the housing authority, said the $3,000 in cash was delivered to him from Evans through another employee in May 1995, with instructions to convert it to a cashier's check payable to Evans.

    Evans said the $3,000 represented the proceeds of some bonds he had cashed in for his wife. Haynes, who now works for the Lakeland Housing Authority, said he drove to a credit union office, obtained a check and delivered it back to Evans.

    Then, in the fall of 1998, with a grand jury investigation of the housing authority under way, Haynes said Evans asked him over lunch at an Applebee's to lie about the $3,000.

    "He said if anyone asked about it to say it was the repayment of a loan," Haynes testified. "I replied I'd feel uncomfortable" because there had been no such loan.

    A federal prosecutor displayed the check Monday, pointing to a footnote scribbled on the check that said, "repayment of loan." Haynes said he did know how that note ended up on the check.

    It isn't clear from testimony where Evans, the executive director of the Tampa Housing Authority from 1988 to 1996, got the $3,000.

    He is accused in a 92-count indictment of taking cash bribes, many of them in 1995, to steer lucrative authority contracts to, among others, Bill Williams Jr., an Orlando contractor with a lengthy criminal record.

    Haynes also testified Monday that he witnessed Williams slip an envelope into Evans pocket in front of housing authority offices in 1996, a couple of hours before Williams picked up a $200 bar tab for the three men at Malio's restaurant one Friday night. Haynes said he did not know what was inside the envelope.

    Also testifying Monday was former Tampa Housing Authority Planning Director Angelo DePaul, who spent several hours on the witness stand Friday detailing instances in which Evans pressured him to falsify construction disbursement requests for Williams' company, Unique Construction.

    DePaul testified that Evans instructed him to cover up Evans' involvement in a $382,000 Unique contract to rehab six fire-damaged College Hill apartments. DePaul said he did so, writing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in April 1996 that Evans "had no interaction with this project."

    Jurors learned for the first time Monday that DePaul has pleaded guilty to two crimes arising from the housing authority investigation. The plea agreement remains sealed, but typically, such agreements call for defendants to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for a possible recommendation for leniency.

    DePaul said he pleaded guilty in June to making a false statement to a federal agency by writing the letter to HUD. He also said he admitted to "misprision of a felony," for concealing an unspecified crime from authorities.

    Evans' defense attorney, Arnold Levine, objected to introducing testimony on the latter charge, saying it "suggests my client is guilty of something" but doesn't say what. U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. instructed jurors to "draw no inference of guilt."

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