The Atlanta Objective: Scandal at Stonecrest

Let's look at how Stonecrest's mayor and friends treated the CARES Act like they were buying themselves Christmas presents with other people's money.

Somehow, money meant to be used in emergency relief during a pandemic for people losing their jobs and their homes ended up funding a $20,000 “three (3) part series ‘Financial Service Education for Higher Net Earners’ focusing on keeping most of what is earned.” Which is to say, a seminar on tax avoidance.

Seems consistent with the theme.

$3,500 ended up in the hands of a masseur from Stockbridge to “provide healing hands and massage to every City staff member who desires using therapeutic holistic wellness massage.” Another $3,000 went to “Covid self-care stress packages including candles, butter, oils and tea. Program for City and volunteer staff to improve productivity.”

Last night, the city of Stonecrest released an investigatory report of the city’s $6.2 million CARES Act spending, and it is something out of Season 4 of The Wire. One city councilwoman, Jazzmin Cobble, has been under police protection since Friday, after a former city employee — well, employee of Jacobs Engineering, which contracts with the city to provide administrative services — made threats while marching out of the door.

Basically, the report says a bunch of people at Stonecrest’s city hall got together as the federal pandemic relief money started to fall from the sky to figure out how to keep some of it for themselves.

“This investigative report also finds that several City staff members involved in the administration of the grant funds had business relationships with contractors and vendors that at least raise concerns about potential conflicts of interest or the appearance of impropriety,” the report’s summary states. “Indeed, some city officials were even involved in the creation of corporate entities that “contracted” with the City and that later played central roles in the administration of CARES Act funds. These newly created corporate entities were paid large sums of money through no bid contracts that were never reviewed by the City Attorney or approved by the Mayor and Council.

The report describes a “scheme whereby City staff members and officials instructed grant recipients to send a portion of the funds they received to third-party corporate entities—ostensibly for marketing and promotional services. These third-party corporate entities were created by City officials or managed by a familiar cast of individuals who have contractual relationships with the City or deep ties to City staff. There is no evidence that the so-called “marketing” services have ever been provided, and it is unknown where the money actually went.”

The city council explicitly waived attorney client privilege for the materials in the report, and effectively called for the FBI and GBI to come investigate. “While this investigation cannot definitely conclude that this was a “kickback” scheme, the appearance of such is overwhelming. A further inquiry by a law enforcement agency, with a full array of compulsory tools at its disposal, would yield answers beyond what this civil investigation could.”

A list of the recipients identified in the report and in other documentation follows.

Businesses and Nonprofits

I take pains to note that businesses that applied for and received funding through Stonecrest’s CARES Act program are not accused of impropriety in the report simply for doing so. I obtained this list separately from the report from an elected official.

  • ARIZONA'S STEAK HOUSE: $250,000

  • Corzav’s Collision and Glass II, Inc.: $150,000

  • Integrated Service Solutions: $150,000

  • J Squared Plumbing Co Inc: $150,000

  • T&J Industries Development and Contracting, Inc: $150,000

  • Belinda's Southern Cuisine: $100,000

  • On Common Ground Inc.: $100,000

  • Spice House: $100,000

  • EPL Heating and Air LLC: $75,000

  • IN THE DOOR, LLC.: $75,000

  • Convoy Marketing, llc. dba Wrap City Vinyl: $60,000

  • Anoshvi Hospitality LLC, dba Fairfield Inn & Suites Atlanta Stonecrest, GA: $50,000

  • Brian Edward Webb LLC DBA Steak N Shake: $50,000

  • Brown Integrated Logistics: $50,000

  • Covaco Tires & Services: $50,000

  • C-Room TV: $50,000

  • CS Truck&Trailer Repair Services, Inc: $50,000

  • Dabomb Sports Grill: $50,000

  • Double Scoop Ice Cream: $50,000

  • DSSA Village East: $50,000

  • Elevate Entrepreneurship Systems: $50,000

  • Encore Recycling, LLC: $50,000

  • Flat Rock Archives: $50,000

  • Fletchers: $50,000

  • Good Eats Healthy Living: $50,000

  • Hilton Garden Inn - Atlanta East/Stonecrest: $50,000

  • Holiday Inn Express & Suites Atlanta East: $50,000

  • Jean & Sons: $50,000

  • Kemp White & Associates: $50,000

  • KES INC: $50,000

  • Klondike Corner: $50,000

  • Mable's BBQ &Smoked Meats: $50,000

  • Master Wall, Inc. : $50,000

  • Pull-A-Part of Lithonia, LLC : $50,000

  • S & W Automotive Parts, Inc.: $50,000

  • Salt & Pepper: $50,000

  • Silk 2 Bar and Grill: $50,000

  • Windemere Roofing: $50,000

  • The Glitz Loft: $40,000

  • AlmostVegan A Healthier Option: $30,000

  • Endulge Me: $30,000

  • Heavenly Body Products: $30,000

  • 1 Stop Appliances LLC: $25,000

  • 2CUT DOCTORS HAIRSTYLE SHOP, LLC: $25,000

  • Air King llc: $25,000

  • Annie's Crab Kingdom: $25,000

  • Beauty N Things: $25,000

  • Big Red Maintenance Service LLC: $25,000

  • Clean Green Services: $25,000

  • D Morgan Accounting: $25,000

  • Divine Mortuary Services, LLC: $25,000

  • E&P Distributors inc: $25,000

  • E.N. BANKS-WARE LAW FIRM,LLC: $25,000

  • East ATL Hotel Group: $25,000

  • Far Innovations: $25,000

  • Fine Living Events, LLC: $25,000

  • Firestation 439 Design Studio: $25,000

  • FORCE TECH, INC.: $25,000

  • J & H HOSPITALITY INC(MICROTEL INN & SUITES): $25,000

  • Karibbean Konnection LLC: $25,000

  • Legacy One Investments, LLC: $25,000

  • National Sustainable Energy Group: $25,000

  • New Life Auto Upholstery: $25,000

  • Obejas, Inc.: $25,000

  • P&S Hospitality LLC, DBA EconoLodge: $25,000

  • Pinnacle Maintenance LLC: $25,000

  • Pollywood, LLC: $25,000

  • Positive Beginnings Consultants LLC: $25,000

  • Quik Action Fire and Water Inc: $25,000

  • Reva Properties LLC: $25,000

  • roberts restaurant: $25,000

  • RtSE Casting Company: $25,000

  • Sandy's Housekeeping: $25,000

  • Scrumptious Fare Catering: $25,000

  • The Pierre Louisius Group LLC: $25,000

  • True Mechanical Corp., LLC: $25,000

  • Walnuts Life Foods: $25,000

  • QB Films LLC: $22,500

  • Concur Property Group, LLC: $20,000

  • SGWS, Inc: $20,000

  • Dynasty Jordan: $18,000

  • AMOS KING DBA Be Right Back: $15,000

  • Anthonys Transportation: $15,000

  • ENSO CAMPUS LLC: $15,000

  • Face Of Victory Church: $15,000

  • Hilltop Caribbean Grill: $15,000

  • A & A Ashford LLC: $10,000

  • A1 Beauty and Barber Salon LLC: $10,000

  • AD BEAUTY & HAIR: $10,000

  • Alpha Medical Contractors, LLC: $10,000

  • Ameri Bistro: $10,000

  • Angie's Little Childcare: $10,000

  • APD Solutions: $10,000

  • Billie Gill-Chestnut Therapist Inc: $10,000

  • CLL Entertainment: $10,000

  • Food Service Management: $10,000

  • FSR Hair Studio: $10,000

  • Global Hands For Hope Foundation Inc: $10,000

  • Hair Effects: $10,000

  • Icon Models & Talent: $10,000

  • Kangaroo Sports Inc: $10,000

  • M Thomas Accounting: $10,000

  • Mason's Super Dogs: $10,000

  • MY A.C.E.: $10,000

  • Noelle party events: $10,000

  • Robert Pawlowski: $10,000

  • Ross Car Sales LLC: $10,000

  • Salem crossing barbershop: $10,000

  • Strategic Risk Management Solutions, LLC: $10,000

  • Tea Amour: $10,000

  • The Braid Box: $10,000

  • Tic Toc: $10,000

  • Amazon Godezz llc: $9,500

  • SPATASTIK: A SALON FOR KIDS: $8,538

  • Envy Her Virgin Hair: $8,000

  • JNE TRAFFIC CONTROL: $8,000

  • WildMint LLC Consulting: $8,000

  • Billianos Entertainment LLC: $7,500

  • Londyn Bella LLC: $7,500

  • Course Syllabus Educational Consultants, LLC: $7,000

  • HALLS CLEANING AND HOMECARE SERVICES: $7,000

  • Maikai Creations LLC.: $7,000

  • September Moon: $7,000

  • Simply Locs By Nikki: $7,000

  • Aa Edwards Enterprises: $5,000

  • BodyReady Fitness: $5,000

  • D C Electric: $5,000

  • D.W. Beauty Work Intimate Wax: $5,000

  • Dental Dreams, LLC: $5,000

  • Especially Yours Cuisine: $5,000

  • K C Financial Management: $5,000

  • M&SJ Enterpriseses, LLC: $5,000

  • Riri's Party: $5,000

  • SharitaG's Custom Creations: $5,000

  • stayflycommunication llc: $5,000

  • VersaStyle Events: $5,000

  • Impeccable Cleaning and Organizing Services, Inc.: $3,500

  • Holistic Atlanta, LLC: $2,400

Investigators with the city asked thirty-four (34) randomly selected grant recipients about payments made to “marketing” firms. The “Small Business Support Application contained two questions asking if the small businesses would be (1) “willing to allocate 25% of the grant to marketing your business”; and (2) “willing to sign an agreement to work with one of our small business advisers to discuss your business plan for recovery and sustainability planning?” When asked about these questions by our investigative team, City staff dismissed the questions as “rhetorical” or asked merely to measure the depth of interest in businesses surviving as going concerns.

“As of the date of the Report, we have received ten responses. Critically, seven of the responses indicated that funds were requested and paid over to Visit Us, Inc., Battleground Media, LLC, some other entity. For instance, one of the responses indicated that Tee Foxx requested 25% of the award to be paid to Visitus.org, which was falsely stated to be the City’s Destination Marketing Organization.”

The report is … savage … here.

“Convoy Marketing DBA Wrap City Vinyl – In an email and the letter returned responding to our inquires, the company indicated that $12,500 was paid to Battleground Media, Inc. from a check that was presented in person by Tee Foxx on December 16, 2020 (Exhibit 15). Company officials stated that Ms. Foxx said the original request was for $100,000, which was not approved. However Foxx claims she intervened on Convoy’s behalf to get it $50,000. According to the email, the owner of Convoy Marketing was told by Ms. Foxx that money was needed to seed other small businesses in the DeKalb County area. Shockingly, in addition to the $12,500 secondary payment to Battleground Media, Foxx requested that the company perform a “vinyl wrap” on two of the Mayor’s son’s vehicles, which service had a value of $5,000. Convoy company officials stated they were perplexed by this request, but just figured that was how business was done, as they had never been the recipient of an award of any kind.

Tee Foxx is CFO/CEO of Municipal Resource Partners and holds the same positions with Foxx Entertainment Services, Inc. She is also listed on documents with the Georgia Secretary of State as the manager of OCC Consulting Group, LLC, also a contractor doing business with the City. Foxx has been in the recent past a member of the Jacobs contract team.

Brown Integrated Logistics – In a reply to our inquiries, company officials stated in part as follows: “Visit Us, Inc. was to get a check from us from the grant for $12,500, or 25% of the grant. Both the Mayor and Clarence Boone informed us of this.” (Exhibit 16). Clarence Boone was, until recently relieved of his position in an action taken by Jacobs, the Senior Director of Economic Development and had a prominent role in the operation of the AARP/SC committee operations. Mr. Boone made all the check requests and sign-offs for the wire transfer that were made to Municipal Resource Partners ($6,000,000), all of which were done without invoices from Municipal Resource Partners or documentation related to the available balances of Municipal Resource Partners at the time of transfers.

Divine Mortuary Services, Inc. – In a reply to our inquiries, Divine Mortuary officials indicated, without saying who made the request, that $5,000 of their $25,000 award was paid to Visit Us, Inc. (Exhibit 17) Divine Mortuary officials were not told the reason for the secondary payment or what Visit Us, Inc. would use the $5,000 for.

New Covenant Christian Ministries – In a reply to our inquiries, New Covenant Ministries told us that the church did not even apply for the funds, but received an award of $50,000 on December 22, 2020 (Exhibit 14). Without indicating the individual, the church indicated that they were “instructed to use at least $5,000 for community needs that would be forwarded to us, and the rest was to be used for the church’s needs.” The church distributed $19,946.53 and is using the balance of funds to assist those impacted by the pandemic, according to an email received from church officials. The church responded to an email invoice from Iris Settle on letterhead using the address: Post Office Box 1495, Lithonia, Georgia 30058, Real Estate Management Consultants (the same address used by Councilmember Jimmy Clanton). The invoice was for $4,500 to pay rent in arrears for seven (7) named individuals. That invoice would appear to relate to the request to hold $5,000 for later disbursement. Iris Settle, until recently relieved of her position in an action taken by Jacobs, was the City Chief of Staff. She is the corporate secretary for Foxx Entertainment Services, Inc. and co-founder of Stonecrest Cares.

Flat Rock Archives – Information was provided to us, including a copy of a cashier check made payable to Visit Us, Inc. for $10,000, indicating that a request was made for this amount to be paid to Visit Us, Inc. (Exhibit 18) The name of the requestor is not provided.

In The Door, LLC – In The Door, LLC engaged an attorney, Max Richardson, Jr., to respond to our letter of inquiry. In a letter dated April 7, 2021, Mr. Richardson stated that In The Door received an award of $75,000 on December 9, 2020, and on or about January 11, 2021, Tee Foxx requested that 25% of the award be paid to Visitus.org for marketing. (Exhibit 19) Additionally, on or about January 20, 2021, Mayor Jason Lary requested that 25% of the award be paid to Visitus.org. However, In the Door did not pay the 25% to Vistus.org, as requested. Rather, it decided to return the 25% to Municipal Resource Partners. In The Door provided a check in the amount of $18,750 to Municipal Resource Partners explaining the amount, turning the check and the letter over to Clarence Boone. After a discussion with his client, Mr. Richardson instructed his client to place a stop payment on the check to Municipal Resource Partners.

Importantly, Visitus.org is not the Destination Marketing Organization for the City, and the request by Tee Fox and Mayor Jason Lary was made with the apparent knowledge that such relationship did not exist. Clarence Boone’s participation in this apparent scheme is yet another indication of its premeditated scope, which started with requesting information on the grant applications as to the willingness of businesses to devote 25% of their grant awards to marketing and to participate with one of “our small business advisors” to discuss their business plan.

On Common Ground – This newspaper was not sent a letter by the City Attorney’s office. However, in a telephone interview with Glenn and Valerie Morgan, we were advised that On Common Ground received a $100,000 award in December of 2020. The check was delivered by Clarence Boone and was signed by Lania Boone, who is Mr. Boone’s wife and an official with Municipal Resource Partners. Tee Foxx requested that On Common Ground send $25,000 of the award they received to Visit Us, Inc., which would be used for marketing and business promotion purposes. It should be noted that On Common Ground, which is located outside the corporate limits of the City of Stonecrest, responded “yes” when asked on the application whether it would be willing to donate 25% of the award for marketing purposes. (Exhibit 20)

Salt & Pepper ($50,000 award) – Exhibit 21, EPL Heating and Air, LLC ($25,000 award) – Exhibit 22, and Church of Christ, Rock Springs Road ($5,000 award) – Exhibit 23, all returned letters indicating that no amounts were requested to be paid to third parties.

Stonecrest Cares

Payments made in the name of “Stonecrest Cares”, which the report notes is not a legal entity or an organizational part of City of Stonecrest government.

  • Leadership Team: $30,000, Four (4) virtual scholarship fairs in the City

  • DWF Wellness LLC: $20,000, Eight (8) week personalized wellness program free for all residents of Stonecrest

  • Angel Eyes Fitness & Nutrition: $10,000, Eight (8) week individualized program to provide a wellness program for each handicapped, blind or physically challenged resident in Stonecrest

  • James A. Conner: $20,000, Three (3) four (4) week programs helping people through stress and identify ways of healing using virtual group sessions

  • Josie Phene, LLC: $ 3,000, Covid self-care stress packages including candles, butter, oils and tea. Program for City and volunteer staff to improve productivity

  • Valerie Edwards: $20,000, Deliver a three (3) part series called “Financial Fitness” focusing on small businesses and individuals to help them reach their goals

  • Titus Ekeoma: $20,000, Deliver a three (3) part series “Financial Service Education for Higher Net Earners” focusing on keeping most of what is earned

  • Dr. Nancy Williams: $20,000, Deliver strategies and tips on “How to Build Wholistic Wellness Well” Start date of May 15, 2021

  • Nasheenah Porter: $ 3,500, Provide healing hands and massage to every City staff member who desires using therapeutic holistic wellness massage

Churches and religious nonprofits

The report does not accuse these groups of misspending the money, but notes that “Amounts awarded to businesses, churches and nonprofits located outside the jurisdiction of the City, if not contrary to the express terms of the (intergovernmental agreement with DeKalb County), were certainly contrary to the spirit of the IGA. We recommend that should any funds remain available that such funds be used to assist businesses, churches and nonprofits located within the City.”

  • Salem Bible Church: $ 50,000

  • First African CDC: $100,000

  • First St. Paul AME Church: $10,000

  • First St. Paul AME Church: $10,000

  • Stage Door Miracles: $10,000

  • Ousley United Methodist Church: $100,000

  • Vision Christian Center: $15,000

  • Refreshing Place Ministries: $ 3,600

  • Ouvarious Christian Fellowship: $ 5,000

  • Rock Springs Road Church of Christ: $ 5,000

  • Shekinah Glory Tabernacle: $ 5,000

  • God’s Faith Deliverance: $ 5,000

  • Face of Victory Church: $15,000

  • Global Hands of Hope: $10,000

“Additional Violations”

“In connection with our investigation, we have cited in other sections of this Report what we believe to be violations of some or all of these requirements by the then Assistant City Attorney, Jacobs’ staff and Jacobs’ subcontractors. We now list two other violations that have come to our attention:”

  • Stonecrest Schools Foundation Stacy Thibodeau, Wife of recently departed Executive Director Internal Auditor (March 2, 2021). Organization received $28,500 from the community-based program.

  • Teena (Tee) Foxx Jacobs Subcontractor CEO/CFO - MRPC while engaged as a Jacobs’ subcontractor; Listed as Manager with OCC Consulting, a City vendor who was paid $30,800 for temperature scanners; CEO/CFO of Foxx Entertainment Services, Inc. was paid $12,000 on April 4, 2020 for masks. All funds from the COVID-19 distribution were from DeKalb County.