Councilman and mayoral candidate’s fraud case headed to trial, likely after election

Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Brown, right, speaks to the media after filing paperwork to run in the Nov. 2 Atlanta mayoral election. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

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Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Brown, right, speaks to the media after filing paperwork to run in the Nov. 2 Atlanta mayoral election. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Brown’s federal fraud case is headed to a trial, but likely not until after the November election when he’ll be on the ballot for mayor.

Brown was indicted last July on four felony charges for actions allegedly taken years before being elected to local office in Atlanta. Prosecutors say he took out thousands of dollars in loans and opened several credit cards to make personal purchases, before falsely claiming his identity had been stolen.

Brown, who announced his bid for mayor in May, has pleaded not guilty and repeatedly said he is innocent.

A judge declared the case ready for trial following several pretrial proceedings earlier this year, according to federal court records and one of Brown’s attorneys. A courtroom deputy for Judge Mark Cohen, who was assigned to the case, said the trial will likely not be scheduled until next spring.

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With a large backlog of criminal and civil cases due to the pandemic, the court is prioritizing pending cases where the defendant is being held in jail before trial.

Brown is facing charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud and making false statements on a bank loan application. In addition to the allegation that he lied about his identity being stolen, Brown is also accused of providing false information to Signature Bank when applying for a loan in August 2017. He was elected to represent a Westside district on the City Council in a special election in 2019.

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Brown speaks during a mayoral forum in July. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Brown speaks during a mayoral forum in July. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

caption arrowCaption
Brown speaks during a mayoral forum in July. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

The typical sentences for federal fraud charges can range from a few months to multiple years, depending on the amount of money at issue, experts said. Under city law, any elected official convicted of a felony must vacate their seat immediately.

Brown’s campaign declined to comment on the specifics of the case but said Wednesday that Brown “would not be running for mayor of Atlanta if he believed he was guilty of these charges.”

The councilman and his attorneys appeared in court for a pretrial hearing earlier this year and moved to throw out statements Brown made to federal investigators in 2019.

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According to a transcript of that hearing, inspectors conducted a ruse on Brown, after he made a whistleblower report alleging a misuse of federal funds by other elected officials.

Investigators recorded a meeting they had with Brown in September 2019, in which they began by discussing Brown’s whistleblower allegations. But they shifted the conversation and asked pointed questions about his own financial history, loan applications and credit report, according to the transcript.

They then executed a search warrant on his apartment and phone.

Brown’s attorneys sought to toss out the statements he made that day, arguing he was effectively in custody at that time and being improperly interrogated. Prosecutors argued that ruses are legal and Brown’s statements were voluntary.

A federal judge ruled in August to deny Brown’s motion, clearing the case to head to trial.

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