Man Who Conned City Sent to Prison
Kimball Perry, - Published 2:05 p.m. ET March 5, 2014
Lashawn Pettus Brown will have to pull his next scam from prison.
The man who conned the city of Cincinnati out of $185,000 in the Empire Theater development in 2002 and then fled to Japan was sent to prison for three years Wednesday by Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Ethna Cooper.
Brown, 37, earlier pleaded guilty to violating his probation from his 2005 conviction for three counts of tampering with records in the theater scam. His sentence was delayed twice while his attorney, Scott Rubenstein, worked to obtain the money Brown said he has in Japan, where he played professional basketball and ran an entertainment company.
Rubenstein told the judge Wednesday that he tried to get Internet access in the Justice Center so Brown could access his accounts. It didn’t work, Brown said, partly because Rubenstein can’t read Japanese, so he asked the judge to let him out so he could do it himself.
“I have been working and I have never forgotten the situation here in Cincinnati,” Brown told the judge. “I do have the restitution (to pay the city) in full.”
But with Brown’s history – unknown to the judge after she sent him to prison in 2005, he managed to shorten his original four-year prison term with special prison programs and then fraudulently obtained a passport and fled to Japan – she declined.
“Given Mr. Brown’s prior hiatuses, I’m not inclined to release him,” the judge said.
Assistant Prosecutor Andy Berghausen was skeptical of Brown’s claim having the funds to repay the city.
“He’s been flouting the law for years. He’s been a fugitive from justice for years,” Berghausen said.
“He’s had years to pay this money. If he has this money and he’s so concerned about returning it to the city and fixing the mess that he’s made, why hasn’t he done it? That is nothing but a continuing con.”
Brown convinced the city in 2002 that he was a millionaire returning home who wanted to help rebuild the area. He asked for public money to help renovate the Over-the-Rhine theater.
Instead of spending the money on the theater, Brown used it to travel, buy shoes and try to promote concerts. The theater was demolished in 2003. Brown was arrested in December in California after returning from Japan.
Cooper also ordered Brown to repay the city $182,450 from the theater scam.