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Prosecution documents reveal more in fraud case against former GOP chairman Jim Greer

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Charlie Crist and a future House speaker are listed among the witnesses that could be called into court as part of a criminal corruption case against former Republican Party boss Jim Greer, according to documents released Tuesday by state prosecutors.

The state's Office of Statewide Prosecution released hundreds of pages of evidence, including a secretly recorded phone call between Greer and the party's former executive director, Delmar Johnson, as part of its deepening case against Greer, who is accused of establishing a secret company to siphon $200,000 in party donations.

Greer was arrested in his Seminole County home earlier this month and indicted on six felony counts of grand theft, money laundering and attempted fraud. He faces as much as 75 years in prison if convicted.

Under an immunity agreement signed May 18, Johnson agreed to reveal evidence against Greer, whose toddler son, Aidan, is Johnson's godson. Johnson has been ordered to pay $65,093 restitution to the state GOP but faces no jail time nor criminal record even though investigators said he "aided and abetted Greer."

Prosecutors said Johnson's light punishment was warranted because he was "under the dominion, control and direction of" Greer in "the commission of the scheme to obtain monies from the Republican Party of Florida."

Crist is among the 63 names on a potential witness list turned over to Greer's defense lawyer, Damon Chase. Crist is listed as a low priority witness.

The governor choose Greer to lead the party and said in a sworn affidavit that he had no knowledge of Greer's secret company, Victory Strategies.

Also on the list is the future House speaker, Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, a close friend of Greer's.

The most intriguing piece of evidence from the Office of Statewide Prosecution is a 56-minute phone call recorded on March 25 between Greer and Johnson. It came months after Republican Party leaders forced the pair out amid growing questions about the party's finances.

Johnson agreed to make the call as part of an immunity agreement with prosecutors to spare himself from criminal prosecution and jail time. — even though investigators acknowledged he "aided and abetted Greer."

Records indicate Johnson worked to hide the secret, profitable arrangement, but his attorney Bob Levinthal said his client went to authorities with information before being asked.

"What would the state party auditors and state law enforcement know if not for Delmar Johnson?" he asked. "Maybe you could equate him with a whistle-blower … who gets rewarded for his cooperation."

In the call, the two men spent the first minutes discussing the persistent rumors of a criminal investigation.

"Tell me what kind of rumors you're hearing," Greer tells Johnson.

"Just that I'm going to be arrested any day. I'm going to be indicted, and you're cooperating with the FBI. All kinds of crazy stuff," Johnson says.

"Delmar, let me tell you about that," Greer replies. "I heard the same thing about me, that I was going to be indicted and I was going to be arrested. And the exact opposite, that you were cooperating with people. Which is almost a joke, because what would you or I be cooperating with — against each other. I mean, it's comical."

A week after the phone call, Florida Department of law enforcement disclosed it was investigating Greer and state GOP finances — a case apparently well under way when it was announced, according to the documents.

The records reveal that the day the investigation was announced, Greer's wife, Lisa, called Johnson to chastise him for snitching.

"The only way they would have gotten the information was from you," she said in an angry voice mail message. "I'm shocked … I can't believe you came in to my home ... you're the godfather of my child and acted like everything was fine."

Two days later, Greer sent Johnson another message, trying to reassure him that they had "done nothing wrong'' by setting up Victory Strategies "but I do think you should retain a lawyer.'' Then, he added: "Aidan says hi.''

Despite the rumors, Greer's tone throughout was defiant, according to the documents. Dozens of witnesses interviewed by investigators portrayed Greer as a power-grabbing leader who needed money to cover bad real estate investments. One major party donor, Harry Sargeant, gave him $10,000 a month "so he did not have to continue hearing Greer complain about his financial problems."

Greer's attorney, Damon Chase, said Victory Strategies did real work and received payment for it.

"The work was done, the money was earned pursuant to the same form contract RPOF uses with all other fundraisers," he said.

Greer is also shown in the records trying to capitalize on his influence through a contract with Mardi Gras Racetrack and Gaming Center in Hallandale during the 2008 legislative session to help generate support for a tax break the company sought on its slot machines. Greer was to be paid $7,500 a month to head up a petition campaign to put an amendment on the ballot to lower the tax rate for the state's dog tracks, said Dan Adkins, head of Mardi Gras.

Among the other revelations:

• John Harris, a government consultant for the GrayRobinson law firm, told FDLE he helped Greer set up Victory Strategies and intentionally hid — at Greer's urging — the fact that his name was listed as an owner. Harris said he "has personally known Greer for many years," dating back to when Harris led a state regulatory division that oversaw a hospitality business Greer owned.

• Dorworth, listed as a top priority witness for prosecutors, told Greer legislative leaders such as Speaker-designate Dean Cannon and Senate President Mike Haridopolos wouldn't criticize Greer about party finances if he kept quiet about the secret severance agreement they signed to pay him $124,000.

• Johnson will pay $65,093 in restitution to the Republican Party and testify truthfully, if called, before a federal grand jury. Federal authorities are also investigating GOP finances and improper spending on party credit cards.

• Susan Wright, the party's office manager, said she believed the party was paying the rent for Johnson's Tallahassee residence and rental car. She told investigators that "many of the charges incurred by Greer and Johnson were charges for personal items and not charges that could be legitimately made."

Times/Herald staff writer Marc Caputo contributed to this report. John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Prosecution documents reveal more in fraud case against former GOP chairman Jim Greer 06/29/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 1:33pm]

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