Burnette’s cousin testifies about million dollar loans at trial


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – Day one of testimony in the JT Burnette trial presented three prosecution witnesses, all linked to the now defunct “KaiserKane” company.

The first witness for the prosecution was JT Burnette’s cousin, Melissa Oglesby. She confirmed in her testimony that she made an agreement with the government to testify in exchange for immunity.

Oglesby said JT Burnette gave her her first job out of college, saying she worked at Burnette Construction for “a while” and then at GLD Mechanical, which was partly owned by Burnette.

She testified that she bought the Eastern Shores Maritime Company from the defendant’s brother, Will Burnette, and renamed it “KaiserKane”. Oglesby explained that she wanted to apply for the Federal 8 (A) program and needed a business that had been active for two years.

Oglesby spoke of becoming an 8 (A) company, describing it as a program that helps minority entrepreneurs negotiate with the federal government without competition. She testified that Burnette thought it would be “a good thing for me to come in”, describing him as a “mentor and advisor”.

She also said the company grew “pretty fast” in 2008, reaching $ 20 million in sales per year, up from $ 4 million the year before.

Oglesby said KaiserKane frequently loaned Burnette money, sometimes “a few million at a time”.

“There was a time when it was three or four times a week,” she said. “It was just like that because he was someone I trusted.”

Oglesby said the loans were repaid “not always” but “often”.

At the end of 2013, Burnette arranged a meeting between Oglesby and Paige Carter-Smith, according to her testimony. Oglesby said KaiserKane “was struggling” to make the GSA work, and Carter-Smith said she could help through governance.

“I thought they were like a lobbying company,” Oglesby said. “I didn’t know they were consultants before the meeting. “

Oglesby testified that Burnette told him that she “needed to work smarter, not harder”.

She and Trey Gardner met Carter-Smith at the end of 2013, signing a contract on January 10, 2014, for an initial retainer of $ 10,000 and a success fee.

Oglesby said that since Governance had never been awarded a GSA contract for KaiserKane, no success fee was paid.

On March 7, 2014, KaiserKane received an invoice from Governance in the amount of $ 100,000.

“It must be a mistake,” Trey Gardner wrote to the accounting team. “$ 10,000 is all they’ll get until we get a project. “

“Do NOT pay for this,” Oglesby wrote in an email. “I’ll talk to JT about it.”

Oglesby said Burnette told him the payment “had something to do with Scott Maddox and the DoubleTree,” adding later that he told her it was for Maddox’s help in purchasing the DoubleTree.

That same March, Oglesby approved a million dollar loan to Burnette to finance the purchase of the DoubleTree.

KaiserKane loaned Burnette $ 1 million on March 27, $ 2.2 million on March 31, and another $ 1 million on April 3.

When asked why she approved it, Oglesby replied, “I wasn’t going to argue with him about it.”

Oglesby’s emails around this time show concerns about the lack of money in KasierKane’s coffers. Prosecution evidence showed the $ 2.2 million loan was repaid quickly, but back and forth between KaiserKane employees wondered when the rest of the money would be paid.

The prosecution asked Oglesby why she approved the loans.

“I trusted JT. He was my mentor, my cousin. I wanted to help him. It’s not easy to argue with him, ”Oglesby said. “In the end, it was going to happen.”

Oglesby said she was frustrated with “the money comes out all the time.”

Emails between Oglesby and The Bean Team’s accountants describe the loans.

“There are so many at this point that they all run together,” wrote Melissa Whittaker.

“We get raped! Oglesby responded.

She sent a draft email to Whittaker and Charles Musgrove, asking them, “May I send it to JT?” “

She confirmed to the prosecution that she was “nervous” to tell him about it, but said she was not “afraid of him”.

The defense began cross-examination at around 11:45 a.m., focusing on how Burnette helped Oglesby start his business.

Lawyer Tim Jansen pointed out, and Oglesby confirmed, that Burnette found Paul Keller, a lobbyist, to help KaiserKane secure Department of Justice contracts.

Oglesby confirmed that sometimes she and her employee Frank Whitley couldn’t get along, and Burnette acted as a buffer “most of the time.”

The defense also presented emails into evidence which showed that Burnette had handled payment issues between KaiserKane and Keller at one point.

Jansen argued that Burnette was trying to help KaiserKane make more money, and he introduced Oglesby to Carter-Smith hoping she could help KaiserKane get GSA (General Services Administration) contracts.

He presented a first draft of the contract between KaiserKane and Governance, and Oglesby agreed it was a bad deal. Jansen then showed off the new contract, negotiated by Burnette, and Oglesby agreed it was a much better option.

Defense evidence gave more information about KaiserKane’s finances, with DOD contracts worth around $ 3 million in Pensacola and Mayport, and DOJ contracts worth around $ 3 million in Talladega, Memphis and Washington. , DC A $ 3 million contract to DC was per floor, with ten floors under construction, meaning the deal was worth $ 30 million over the life of the project.

Jansen also added that none of the loans to Burnette were illegal and that Oglesby’s signature was on the $ 100,000 payment to Governance.

“Sir. Burnette never made any loans or signed anything without your approval,” he said.

“Would it be fair to say that a $ 100,000 lobbying fee would be worth a GSA contract?” Jansen asked.

“Yes,” Oglesby replied.

Jansen spoke about the 8 (A) business requirements to have a private job; Oglesby confirmed that Burnette was instrumental in securing private work for his company and maintaining her 8 (A) status.

During the reorientation, the prosecution focused on the nature of Oglesby and Burnette’s relationship, arguing that she was indebted to him.

“Is it fair to say that you didn’t ask a lot of questions when he ordered you to transfer money from your business to his?” Asked the lawyer.

“Yes,” Oglesby replied.

The second prosecution witness was Melissa Whittaker, an FSU graduate who started working for The Bean Team in 2012. Whittaker said she also worked in offices at the Midtown filling station at the hotel. Duval, then to Kaiser Kane as part of his work with The Bean. Team.

Whittaker said no one other than Oglesby had signing authority and that KaiserKane would have between $ 3 million and $ 6 million in the bank, depending on the time of year.

The prosecution also referred to KaiserKane’s payments to Governance.

“I questioned it when it fell on my desk,” Whittaker said, quoting his emails. “I would usually see a subcontract for a deal of this size. “

Whittaker confirmed that Oglesby initially asked him not to pay the money. She testified that Oglesby then spoke to Burnette about the matter.

“She wasn’t happy with the response, but she agreed to pay it,” Whittaker said.

During defense cross-examination, Whittaker said Burnette and Oglesby had a friendly relationship. She also said she had never seen the formal consultation agreement between Governance and KaiserKane.

The third and final witness on Tuesday was Charles Musgrove Jr. He began his testimony by confirming that he had made an offer with the government.

When asked what he understood this to mean, Musgrove replied that “if I tell the truth, I will not be prosecuted for the information I provide”.

Musgrove said he founded The Bean Team in September 2001; he said he met Burnette in 2007, and he said that in 2013 more than half of The Bean Team’s work was related to 15 or 20 of Burnette’s companies.

Some of Musgrove’s testimony focused on the liquidation of KaiserKane’s assets in late 2014, referred to as the “unfolding” in several documents. Other witnesses said that as Company 8 (A), KaiserKane was in the process of “cutting” the program.

In the Unwind documents, Oglesby sent an email requesting that the payment of $ 110,000 to Governance be taken from Burnette’s share.

“Did Burnette object to governance payments being tied to her share?” Asked the prosecution.

“No,” Musgrove said.

Musgrove also testified about the Gateway project. He said KaiserKane couldn’t develop the land he bought from one of Burnette’s companies because the surety company was against it.

The prosecution showed emails between employees of other Burnette companies, including Hunter and Harp. Musgrove testified that the property had increased in value since KaiserKane bought it, but that they had not reaped the benefits of the sale.

“Did KaiserKane receive this $ 2 million in profit?” Asked the prosecution.

“It was reimbursed to Burnette, to one of its companies,” Musgrove replied.

The tribunal meets again at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

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