When a federal pretrial services officer went recently to check on former Sommet CEO Brian Whitfield at his listed address in Arizona, two strangers answered the door. And that could land Whitfield behind bars.
Whitfield, who is facing multiple criminal charges stemming from an alleged tax fraud scam at Sommet, moved out in June 2012 without notifying the government — a violation of his pretrial release.
A hearing has been set for Feb. 8 in which Whitfield must answer “why his bond and pretrial supervision should not be revoked,” according to a petition filed last Thursday in the U.S. District Court of Middle Tennessee.
But it wasn't just the change of address that disturbed the pretrial services officer. They maintain that Whitfield also was using an alias. Asked to provide proof of his new residence, Whitfield brought in a typed letter from a man named Michael Shaw that said “Brian Edwards has lived at my house ... since June 2012.”
Whitfield told pretrial services that he used the alias — he claims it’s his mother's maiden name — because “he did not want others to be able to 'Google' his real name and learn what might be going on with his federal charges,” the petition said.
The pretrial services officer also noted that the name “Brian Edwards” appeared on his caller ID when Whitfield called.
“The defendant has misrepresented his address to pretrial services for the past six months and has used an alias name in his relationship with his roommate and possibly others,” the petition reads. “Pretrial believes both increase the risk of nonappearance.”
The penalty for violating conditions of pretrial release could include a fine, imprisonment or both as well as bond forfeiture and prosecution for contempt of court. Whitfield was previously accused of contempt of court in Sommet-related bankruptcy hearings in 2010.
Whitfield, his wife Marsha Whitfield and accomplice D. Edwin Todd are accused of a multimillion-dollar fraud stemming from their operation of Sommet — the name that once adorned Nashville's downtown arena. Their criminal trial is set for June 18.
Brian Whitfield's attorney, Peter Strianse, didn't return a call for comment on Monday.