Friday, February 13, 2004

Pettus-Brown in court today



By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LaShawn Pettus-Brown is expected back in Cincinnati today to answer charges that he defrauded the city while overseeing the failed Empire Theater project.

After more than a year on the run, Pettus-Brown was arrested in New York last month when a prospective date ran his name through the Google Internet search engine and learned he was a wanted man.

The woman then called authorities, who arrested him when he showed up for his date at an Applebee's restaurant.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said Pettus-Brown was to fly back to Cincinnati Thursday evening with U.S. marshals. He is scheduled for a 1:30 p.m. hearing today in federal court before Magistrate Timothy Hogan.

Pettus-Brown can ask Hogan to set a bond that would allow him to remain free pending his trial. But prosecutors are expected to argue he is a flight risk and should be held without bond.

The FBI issued an arrest warrant for Pettus-Brown last year that accused him of wire fraud in connection with the Empire Theater project.

The city lost more than $184,000 on the project after investing heavily in Pettus-Brown's plan to rehabilitate the 90-year-old theater on Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine.

The FBI has said that nearly $93,000 of the money the city paid Pettus-Brown is missing.

Police and the FBI still are investigating the collapse of the project and how a novice, would-be developer was able to secure so much financial help from the city.

Pettus-Brown is a Taft High School graduate who later played professional basketball in Japan.

E-mail dhorn@enquirer.com




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