A former Richmond real estate developer squirreled away millions of dollars in cash and arranged for an aborted charter flight to England while facing federal fraud charges, prosecutors say.
Billy G. Jefferson undertook a “breathtaking scheme” to siphon away money that was supposed to go to pay nearly $13 million in agreed restitution to the government, according to a motion filed by prosecutors Friday.
Jefferson’s plans involved three trips to Las Vegas for laundering cash, creation of phony identification cards, 670 separate cash withdrawals and a makeshift safe constructed from plastic pipe, the government lawyers said.
The government believes Jefferson is hiding a stash of between $1.5 million and $2.4 million, according to the prosecutors.
Jefferson, 52, last year admitted padding applications for historic rehabilitation tax credits, costing state and federal taxpayers a total of $12,947,886.77.
The federal prosecutors now are asking U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney Jr. to nix an agreement for a 6-and-a-half year prison sentence linked to Jefferson’s guilty plea to two fraud charges. Prosecutors want to push for a 20-year sentence, instead.
Gibney ordered Jefferson’s lawyers to respond by April 21.
Jefferson’s potential troubles do not end there. The feds also plan new charges based on claims that Jefferson was violating his agreements with the court and hoarding cash to fund his “disappearance.”
After Jefferson’s December guilty plea, Gibney released Jefferson on bond based on assurances that he was liquidating assets to pay restitution. He was ordered to report any transfers of more than $25,000 value.
In fact, the government now claims, Jefferson had already plotted to sneak out of the country on a one-way charter flight to England using his brother’s identity. The plan was scotched when a charter representative explained that an official would inspect the traveler’s passport upon arrival, according to the prosecution’s allegations.
Jefferson had surrendered his passport following his arrest in April 2013.
In June, Jefferson purchased a specialized printer and templates that could be used to produce detailed driver’s licenses, the prosecutors said. He used the material to create an Arkansas driver’s license with his picture and his brother’s identifying information, the government said.
The brother reportedly turned the fake ID over to investigators when he found it and denied any knowledge of the use of his personal information.
“After his England plans fell through, the defendant changed tactics again,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael R. Gill.
Jefferson allegedly deposited $2.1 million at the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas and later claimed he spent and gambled away most of that money. Instead, the feds contend, he used casino transactions in an attempt launder more than $1.6 million that he kept for his cash hoard.
“Cash is heavy,” Jefferson reportedly remarked to his brother as the two traveled home from Las Vegas in December.
The feds’ evidence also includes a length of 8-inch diameter plastic pipe with two end caps, painted in camouflage. The government lawyers suggested Jefferson hoped to use the pipe as a waterproof safe to conceal assets.
Charles E. James of Richmond, one of Jefferson’s lawyers, said his legal team was reviewing the government’s filing and would be responding.