Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Brown indicted on fraud charges

Councilman Antonio Brown announces the formation of a 70-member task force on the steps of  Atlanta City Hall on July 02, 2020.  STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Councilman Antonio Brown announces the formation of a 70-member task force on the steps of Atlanta City Hall on July 02, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

A federal grand jury has indicted Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Brown on multiple counts of fraud, for allegedly lying about his income on applications to obtain loans and credit cards which he used for personal purchases -- including a Range Rover and Mercedes Benz C300.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has also accused Brown of lying about being a victim of identity theft to defraud the financial institutions that gave him the money.

Brown is charged with wire fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud and making false statements on a bank loan application.

Brown told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday that he plans to fight the charges and has no intention of resigning his council seat.

The alleged crimes occurred years before Brown became a member of the City Council. He won a special runoff election in 2019 after the district three seat was vacated when long time Councilman Ivory Lee Young died of cancer.

“For years, Antonio Brown allegedly sought to defraud a number of banks and credit card companies by falsely claiming that he was the victim of identity theft,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.

Although there have been former council members indicted after leaving office, Brown appears to be the first sitting councilman to be indicted since federal prosecutors charged D.L. “Buddy” Fowlkes with bribery and income tax evasion in 1993.

He did not immediately respond to messages left on his personal cell phone seeking comment.

According to Pak, Brown opened a number of credit cards beginning in 2012, which he then used to make thousands of dollars in personal purchases. Pak also accused Brown of obtaining over $60,000 in loans for the cars.

The indictment further alleges that Brown provided false information to Signature Bank when applying for a $75,000 loan in August 2017. Brown allegedly provided a personal financial statement during the application process falsely claiming he earned $325,000 per year and had $200,000 in available cash or assets.

Brown knew this information was false because he had recently submitted other loan applications reporting far less income and available cash or assets, Pak said in the press release.

For instance, in a July 2017 loan application to another bank, Brown submitted a 2016 federal income tax return reporting that he earned $125,000 per year -- $200,000 less than what he represented that his income was to Signature Bank, prosecutors allege.

Brown, the first black openly LGBTQ person ever elected to the Atlanta City Council, had become an increasingly vocal member of the council this year, leading protests against police brutality and forming a task force to address the issue. He also publicly clashed with Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Brown proposed an ordinance would outlaw so-called “riot agents,” such as tear gas and rubber bullets, which police argue serve as essential tools that allow them to deal with unruly crowds as safely as possible.

One of Brown’s earlier signature piece’s of legislation was a ban on landlords from rejecting federal housing vouchers as payment for rent.

The ordinance passed on Feb. 17 with a 13-2 vote, and was hailed as an effort to root out voucher discrimination as Atlanta struggles with providing affordable housing.