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Former housing director's prison term revised

In what might be the final chapter of a high-profile kickback scandal, a federal judge sentenced former Tampa Housing Authority executive director Audley Evans to 33 months in prison Thursday.

U.S. District Judge James Moody also ordered Evans to pay $20,000 in restitution and spend three years on probation. The judge allowed Evans to turn himself in to authorities sometime in the next few weeks, and said he would recommend that Evans serve his time at the Coleman Correctional Facility in nearby Sumter County.

Evans hugged several tearful friends and family members after the hearing. He did not comment to reporters.

"I think everything that needs to be said has been said before," said Evans' attorney Arnie Levine, who told the judge that Evans plans another appeal.

In 2000, Evans, contractor C. Hayward Chapman and Tampa physician Dr. Patrick Watson were indicted on dozens of charges of bribery, conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering. During the three-week trial, prosecutors alleged that Chapman and Watson conspired to subvert the bidding process at the Tampa Housing Authority with bribes paid to Evans.

The judge dismissed all the charges against Watson.

Jurors convicted Evans of taking $5,244 in carpeting and roofing work from developer Bill Williams Jr. They also found him guilty of taking a $25,000 certificate of deposit from Chapman to use as collateral for a personal loan and $125,000 in payments from Chapman applied to Evans' mortgage loans. Evans was also convicted of making several false statements to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Evans was sentenced to 41 months in prison. Chapman, convicted of four counts of paying illegal gratuities, was ordered to serve 18 months and pay a $5,000 fine. The judge allowed the men to remain free on bail while they appealed the convictions.

Last year, an appeals court threw out all the counts against Chapman and overturned two counts of making false statements to federal authorities and four counts of taking illegal gratuities against Evans.

According to the ruling, Evans wasn't a public official when Chapman gave him $150,000, a $25,000 certificate of deposit as collateral for a bank loan and $125,000 to pay off three of Evans' creditors. At the time, Evans headed Meridian River Development Corp.

The appeals court, however, let stand the convictions on several remaining charges.

At Thursday's resentencing hearing, Evans faced a possible range of 33 to 41 months in prison.

_ Graham Brink can be reached at 226-2254 or brinksptimes.com.

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