Businessman Jeff Jafari pleads guilty to bribing City of Atlanta and DeKalb County officials to obtain contracts
ATLANTA - Lohrasb “Jeff” Jafari, the former Executive Vice President of Atlanta engineering firm, PRAD Group, Inc., has been sentenced for paying bribes to two City of Atlanta officials in exchange for steering city business worth millions of dollars to his company, paying bribes to a former DeKalb County, Georgia, official in an attempt to obtain county contracts, and evading over $1.5 million in taxes.
“Jeff Jafari paid bribe after bribe to high-ranking government officials in the City of Atlanta and DeKalb County over several years and thereby obtained lucrative city contracts worth tens of millions of dollars,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “The public paid a heavy price from every project unfairly awarded to Jafari’s companies through corruption, and he then compounded his harm by never paying any tax on his substantial personal income. His greed delivered a hard blow to public trust in honest and fair government, but this sentence underscores our commitment to prosecuting corruption in any form.”
"Circumventing the process to hire contractors for the city by accepting bribes to profit personally is one of the highest forms of public corruption," said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. "As this sentencing shows, the FBI and the City of Atlanta will not tolerate anyone who takes advantage of city funds and abuses their position of trust.”
“Residents expect fair and open competition for city contracts,” said Demetrius Hardeman, Acting Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Atlanta Field Office. “City officials who accept bribes undermine the contracting process and diminish trust in the government. IRS Criminal Investigation and our partners will continue investigating and holding those accountable who take the public trust for granted to enrich themselves.”
According to the charges and other information presented in court: From 1984 to 2018, PRAD Group was an architectural, design, and construction management firm headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, that performed services for the City of Atlanta and DeKalb County, Georgia. Jafari served as PRAD Group’s Executive Vice President and oversaw PRAD Group’s finances.
From January 2003 to February 2017, Adam Smith served as the Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) for the City of Atlanta and supervised the city’s purchasing activities and its expenditure of billions of dollars of public money. From April 2011 to May 2016, Jo Ann Macrina served as the City of Atlanta’s Commissioner of the Department of Watershed Management, a cabinet-level position from which she managed the City’s drinking water and wastewater systems and was responsible for an annual budget exceeding $500 million.
Jafari gave Smith and Macrina cash and other items of value to obtain business with the City of Atlanta. In exchange for those payments, Smith and Macrina conspired with Jafari to ensure that PRAD Group received city business worth millions of dollars, including by agreeing to replace two evaluators on the selection team for the city’s Architectural and Engineering contract and to re-score an evaluation so that Jafari’s company would be awarded a contract.
During Smith’s tenure as the CPO, the City of Atlanta awarded contracts worth millions of dollars to PRAD Group and joint venture projects of which PRAD Group was a partner. For years, Jafari met privately with Smith on multiple occasions, frequently at local restaurants. During these meetings, Jafari and Smith discussed City of Atlanta procurement projects, bids, and solicitations. Often at the time of these meetings Jafari was actively seeking additional work and/or assistance with ongoing city projects. Jafari paid Smith $1,000 in cash in the bathroom of the restaurant after most of the meetings. In return for these bribe payments, Jafari expected Smith to use his position and power to assist Jafari with contracting and procurement with the City of Atlanta. From at least 2014 to January 2017, Jafari paid Smith more than $40,000 in cash with the intent to influence Smith in his role as the city’s CPO.
In February 2017, Jafari became aware of the federal investigation into his bribe payments to Smith and confronted Smith at Atlanta City Hall. Jafari insisted that Smith lie to the FBI by denying that Smith took bribe money from him.
From at least 2013 through May 2016, Macrina met with Jafari to discuss City of Atlanta procurement projects, bids, and solicitations. Often at the time of these meetings, Jafari was actively seeking contracts, projects, and work with the City of Atlanta. To obtain city work, Jafari promised Macrina a lucrative job with PRAD Group and, directly or through a PRAD Group employee, gave Macrina $10,000 in cash, jewelry, a room at a luxury hotel in Dubai, a luxury shopping trip in Dubai, and landscaping work at her home. Shortly after the City of Atlanta fired her, Macrina began working for Jafari and PRAD Group. Between June and September 2016, Jafari and/or PRAD Group paid Macrina $30,000 in four separate payments.
On April 8 and August 21, 2014, the FBI conducted two undercover operations using a confidential source (who at the time, was a high-ranking DeKalb County official). During two surreptitiously recorded meetings, the confidential source met with Jafari at local restaurants, where Jafari sought assistance from the confidential source to obtain work in DeKalb County. After the meetings, Jafari directed the confidential source to the bathroom of the restaurants where Jafari paid the confidential source cash payments of $1,000 and $1,500.
From 2014 to 2016, Jafari neither filed personal tax returns, nor paid any income taxes to the IRS. During those years, Jafari withdrew large amounts of cash from corporate bank accounts and used money from the PRAD Group’s corporate accounts to pay for various personal expenses, including several luxury vehicles. Jafari evaded the payment of at least $1.5 million in taxes.
Lohrasb “Jeff” Jafari, 72, of Alpharetta, Georgia, was sentenced before U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones to five years in prison, three years supervised release, a $300 special assessment, and $909,674 in restitution. In April 2023, Jafari pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiratorial bribery, substantive bribery, and tax evasion.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation investigated the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey W. Davis and Nathan P. Kitchens, Trial Attorney Jolee Porter of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, and Trial Attorney Todd Ellinwood of the Justice Department’s Tax Division prosecuted the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.