The house at 3161 Hamlet Way NE in Marietta, Ga., has close to $300,000 in upgrades, according to its listing. Fitness room, rec room, climate controlled wine cellar, custom bar with marble countertops, Sub-Zero appliances and a hometheater. And that’s just in the basement.
But U.S. authorities claim that most of these home improvements were financed through bribes paid to Ronald Johnston, a former Home Depot flooring buyer who owned the house. Johnston is the subject of a federal investigation and asset forfeiture action, along with two other flooring merchants who worked in the Atlanta retailer’s Store Support Center on Paces Ferry Road.
No criminal charges have been filed against Johnston or the other two individuals, James Robinson and Anthony Tesvich, named in a civil action filed last December by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta. Alleging mail and wire fraud and attempted money laundering, prosecutors are trying to seize property, vehicles, gym equipment and cash.
In an interview with federal agents, Johnston denied ever accepting bribes or kick backs. His attorneys did not respond to Home Channel News’ requests for an interview. Tesvich and Robinson could not be reached for comment.
At least one vendor, a Venezuela ceramic tile manufacturer named Mega trade Corp., has admitted to making payments to Robinson, court papers state.
Home Depot spokesman Ron DeFeo said the company continues to cooperate with the authorities in their investigation, which so far has involved the Internal Revenue Service; the FBI; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office would not comment on the case. But a number of details have emerged in court papers filed since December, and the government’s case looks far from completed.
Prosecutors portray Tesvich, Home Depot’s former product development merchant for flooring, as the kickback scheme’s mastermind. Tesvich was forced to resign in 2005 after internal security officers suspected him of accepting $4,900 a month in bribes from one supplier, according to the complaint. What the company didn’t know was that, from 2002 to 2005, Tesvich had funneled $10 million from international Home Depot suppliers in to four bank accounts he controlled, court papers state.
Tesvich’s departure from Home Depot in 2005 marked the beginning of his role as a middleman, according to investigators. They claim he formed a number of shell compani