Former Atlanta councilman sentenced for federal bank fraud

ATLANTA (AP) – A former Atlanta city councilman and mayoral candidate was sentenced Thursday in federal court on a single count of bank fraud, but he won’t spend any time behind bars.

U.S. District Judge Mark H. Cohen sentenced Antonio Brown to 18 months of probation, with the first eight to be served confined to home. During the hearing, Cohen noted that Brown previously served three years on supervised pretrial probation with no issues or infractions.

Brown served two years on Atlanta’s City Council before running an unsuccessful campaign for mayor in 2021. He campaigned under a cloud of federal charges filed in 2020, when a grand jury indicted him. He reached a plea deal in the case, admitting to lying about his income on a 2017 application for a $75,000 bank loan. The maximum sentence for fraud is decades in prison and $1 million in fines. Prosecutors recommended to the judge that Brown be sentenced only to probation and house arrest.

Prosecutors and Brown’s attorneys painted the former councilman as a good public servant who made mistakes out of desperation and because he has endured trauma, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“I refuse to be a victim through all of this,” said Brown, who paused to hold back tears as he addressed the court. “There’s a saying, that we have to lie in the bed we make. Standing here today, I know that I’ve made mine and now I must accept the repercussions that come along with it.”

Brown said he applied for the loan to save his business amid difficult events, including his failing health and his business partner’s unexpected death. Brown said he rationalized inflating his income and assets because he needed to maintain his fashion line’s plans to nationally launch in high-end department stores like Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom.

Meanwhile, Brown’s attorneys said in court filings that he has been serving his community and is a few months away from opening Stir House, a vegan restaurant “which will help provide quality, affordable food for an underserved segment of the Atlanta community.”

Cohen said he admired Brown for working hard even after his political career ended, the newspaper reported.

“You’re getting a break here today,” said Cohen, who noted the sentencing was below standard guidelines. “No one wants you back in this position again.”

Cohen warned Brown to avoid committing any more crimes.

“I’m just ready to move forward with my life,” Brown said after the hearing.

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