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Judge: Former drug kingpin Cornell Jones owes the city more than $1 million


A Superior Court judge ruled Cornell Jones and his nonprofit, accused of using HIV/AIDS funds to open this Queens Chapel Road NE strip club, owe the city over $1 million. (The Washington Post)

Updated 6 p.m. with attorney’s comment

The news hasn’t gotten any better for D.C. gangster legend Cornell Jones since a jury found last month that he swindled the city out of nearly $330,000 worth of grant funds.

A D.C. Superior Court judge entered final judgment in the case Friday, ordering that Jones and Miracle Hands, the nonprofit group he founded, pay the city $1.08 million — a sum that accounts for the triple damages provided for under the city’s false-claims statute, $90,000 in civil penalties and another $4,300 in litigation costs. Interest will accrue until the full debt is paid.

Jones and Miracle Hands are jointly and severally liable for the sum, meaning they are equally responsible to pay the full amount. In other words, Jones can’t claim the nonprofit corporation is liable or vice versa.

Paul S. Blumenthal, the attorney who represented Jones and Miracle Hands, said Tuesday he was “disappointed” in the judgment but declined to say whether an appeal would be lodged.

The judgment is rooted in a 2011 lawsuit filed by D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan, alleging that Jones and his nonprofit falsified documents to support city grants meant to serve people with HIV/AIDS. Instead, the city alleged, Jones used the money to renovate a building that eventually became The Stadium Club, a luxury strip joint.

Jones, who ran the notorious Hanover Place NW drug market before being jailed from 1986 to 1995, denied misusing the funds, and the jury was not charged with determining whether or not HIV/AIDS grants were used to build the strip club. But it did find in its June verdict that Jones and Miracle Hands falsified nine documents to support the grants, with Jones converting the funds to wrongful uses and unjustly enriching himself.

According to the judgment entered by Judge Laura A. Cordero, there was little dispute over the levying of triple damages or whether litigation costs should be paid. The parties did, however, tussle over the amount of civil penalties that should be levied, with the city arguing for $10,000 in penalties for each of the nine falsified claims found by the jury, and Jones and his nonprofit arguing for about half as much.

Cordero sided with the District.

“The jury found that that both Defendants knowingly submitted false claims throughout both grant years and this conduct is serious enough to merit the highest penalty,” she wrote, adding that evidence presented at trial “showed that Defendants acted with more than a mere reckless disregard of the wrongdoing.”

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.

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