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 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,” U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said. “In exchange for those bribe payments, Macrina manipulated the evaluation process to direct work to Jafari’s firm.”
According to Pak, 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. 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, 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, authorities say 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.
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, authorities say Macrina replaced two evaluators that previously represented the Department of Watershed Management with herself and another individual.
In July 2015, JP2, a joint venture led by PRAD Group, 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 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 allegedly 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 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.
When PRAD Group or a joint venture became a successful proponent on a city of Atlanta contract or request for proposal, Smith approved and submitted the award of those projects. Authorities say 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. 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, 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.