Barrett Was Duped, Deputy Argues
Jones says he never thought sheriff wasn’t going to ‘get the money back’
Steve Visser, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Apr. 18
Fulton County Sheriff Jackie Barrett’s top deputy said Sunday his office was “duped” out of a $2 million investment in part because he never dreamed a Florida group would dare con a law enforcement agency.
Chief Deputy Caudell Jones said he and the sheriff believed that Florida investment broker Byron Rainner was placing the money with MetLife, a reputable insurance company that Rainner represented.
“I knew these guys aren’t going to mess with law enforcement money — nobody is that crazy,” Jones said. “It never dawned on me that we weren’t going to get that money back.”
Barrett, who will not comment on the advice of her lawyer, has maintained that she was duped.
Jones is scheduled to meet today with federal prosecutors and agents investigating the investment deals. He said he is willing to testify before a grand jury without a grant of immunity.
The sheriff originally wrote a $2 million check in March 2003 to MetLife, but scrapped it and wrote a new one to Provident Capital Investments Inc. in Hollywood, Fla., at the direction of Rainner, Jones said.
Jones said he only co-signed the check at Barrett’s direction, but he insisted he thought the company was part of MetLife because Rainner had given a PowerPoint presentation to the sheriff on MetLife investments and brought another MetLife representative to a meeting with Barrett.
The sheriff wrote a $5.2 million check to MetLife in April 2003. The county auditor has deemed both investments illegal under laws governing public funds. MetLife has returned the money at the sheriff’s insistence, but Provident Capital has said it lost the $2 million in risky loans to start-up businesses.
The money came from funds in which the sheriff collected deposits from such sources as sales of property to satisfy back taxes.
About $925,000 of that money went to pharmaceutical businessman Lancelot James, who often traveled with Rainner to meet with Barrett in Atlanta, Jones said.
James wanted a contract to supply pharmaceuticals to the Fulton County Jail but was unsuccessful, Jones said.
Ed Marger, one of Jones’ lawyers, questioned why the sheriff had his client co-sign the check to Provident Capital but didn’t insist he co-sign the larger check to MetLife.
The lawyer said the transactions look suspicious, but he suggested that Barrett and Jones were fooled because they were not too savvy about investments.