Fraud trial begins for white owner of ICS Cable, accused of naming black college student as president of company
By Ellen Jean Hirst, Chicago Tribune reporter
8:56 p.m. CDT, March 26, 2013
Two white businessmen "put a lot of work" into a scheme to make their cable installation company appear to be minority-owned so it could land subcontracts from a firm doing business with the city of Chicago, prosecutors told a federal jury Tuesday.
One of the defendants, Guy Potter, named the son of a consultant as president of his company, ICS Cable in Chicago, as part of the scheme to achieve minority-owned status, prosecutors allege. Jerone Brown, who is African-American, was in college at the time.
Brown and his mother, Cheronne Mayes, have pleaded guilty to fraud charges and are expected to testify in the trial, which began with opening statements Tuesday.
Chicago required RCN Telecom Services of Illinois to subcontract some of its work to minority-owned businesses. From 2003 to 2006, the lawsuit states, RCN subcontracted with ICS Cable, which made more than $8 million over that period.
In his opening statement, Potter's defense attorney Jon Erickson said it wasn't Potter's responsibility to read the ordinance that defined a "minority business enterprise."
Instead, Erickson said, Potter hired a consultant, Mayes, who had long worked for the city and was familiar with minority business certification. Mayes' expertise in the area allowed her to forge believable tax returns, resumes and other legal documents to maintain the company's minority status, Erickson said.
"She made all forged documents," Erickson said. "She's a crook. And she is who the government is asking you to rely on to convict my client."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Romero told the jury that Potter and Giovenco were in on the lies.
"They put a lot of work into this fraud," Romero said. "It was a tedious process."
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