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Witness: No payoffs, just investments

A developer who paid the ex-Tampa Housing Authority leader $125,000 says the money was for legitimate real estate deals.

By JEFF TESTERMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2001


TAMPA -- Developer C. Hayward Chapman testified Thursday that money he gave former Tampa Housing Authority boss Audley Evans was an investment, not a kickback for construction projects.

Chapman said three cashiers' checks totaling $125,000 sent to pay off mortgages Evans owed were a staightforward investment in Evans' holding company, Caribbean Properties.

"I looked at it as something that would help him, but would also be a real estate investment," Chapman said. The $125,000 was drawn on an account of Concorde Inc., a company whose sole shareholder is Chapman's daughter, Terry Keirn. Concorde obtained about $700,000 worth of construction contracts from Meridian River Development Corp., a non-profit company where Evans was executive director when Concorde obtained the contracts.

A second company called Bradley and Bradley, this one run by Chapman's son-in-law, professional wrestler Steve Keirn, won several contracts from the Tampa Housing Authority while Evans was executive director there.

Asked by defense attorney Frank Winkles if the payments of $125,000 were in any way related to the awarding of contracts to Concorde or Bradley and Bradley, Chapman replied, "Not at all."

Chapman's testimony came on the 12th day of the federal corruption trial of Evans, Chapman and Tampa physician Patrick Watson. Chapman and Watson are accused of paying nearly $300,000 in kickbacks to Evans for contracts in what prosecutors say was a conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development of $4.5-million.

Defense attorneys rested their case Thursday. With U.S. District Judge James Moody out of town today, jurors are scheduled to hear closing statements Monday, then retire to consider a verdict.

Jurors Thursday also heard from consultant Peter R. Brown, a retired contractor and engineer from Pinellas County. Brown was hired by the defense to evaluate bids by Concorde and to appraise the company's roofing and cabinetry work on apartments owned by Meridian River.

On four of five contracts, Concorde's bids were lower than "fair and equitable" estimates Brown calculated himself. Brown said his inspections of the Concorde work showed it to be of high quality and without defects in every case.

Recent coverage

Evans testifies that he didn't take bribes (February 22, 2001)

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