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Varnum Client Avoids Prison Following Embezzlement, Tax Evasion Charges

May 15, 2024

In a departure from sentencing in tax cases nationwide, Varnum attorney Eric Nemeth helped a Detroit area businessman avoid federal prison after the client admitted to embezzling more than $10 million from his family-owned company – and failing to claim the income – in order to fuel an opioid addiction.

In the request for sentencing leniency, Nemeth and Varnum partner Will Thompson cited the client’s assistance in the prosecution of another defendant in the matter as well as the backdrop of the national opioid epidemic. They also demonstrated the client’s substantial community involvement, including as a youth sports coach and as a mentor for others struggling with addiction.

Instead of a lengthy prison sentence, former GTJ Consulting CEO Brandon Johnson was sentenced on May 6 to six months’ home confinement by U.S. District Judge Matthew Leitman of the Eastern District of Michigan. Johnson, who coaches varsity baseball at a Detroit-area prep school, won’t have to start serving that punishment until after spring and summer baseball season. He must also serve three years’ supervised release and pay more than $4.8 million restitution to the IRS.

Prosecutors said they would have pushed for a 41-month sentence but credited Johnson for helping the government investigate and prosecute a drug dealer involved in the matter and instead sought a 25-month sentence. Varnum has represented Mr. Johnson since he was first charged in 2017.

The matter was featured in the May 10 American Lawyer Media “Litigator of the Week” column.

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