Eight days after prosecutors offered him a deal that would have kept him from behind bars, Christopher Weaver was convicted Tuesday afternoon of bilking Alltel out of about $470,000. Now, he faces a sentence of up to 639 years in prison.
Alltel’s regional manager says there’s no way to tell for sure if Christopher Weaver bilked the mobile telephone company for work his Albany firm, On-Site Wireless, never performed. Indeed, the Albany Police Department investigated the case and never brought charges. And prosecutors were so wary of a successful guilty verdict that they offered Weaver a deal last week that would have kept Weaver out of prison. Indeed, it was Weaver who initiated the investigation.
But a Dougherty County jury decided Tuesday that Weaver is guilty of all 40 counts of the theft by taking, racketeering and conspiracy counts for which he was indicted in 2007. Weaver now faces up to 639 years in prison upon sentencing, which has been postponed pending a review of the case’s merits by Chief Superior Court Judge Willie Lockette.
“I really, honestly, don’t know how the jury arrived at such a verdict,” Weaver’s attorney, Phil Cannon, said Tuesday night. “The conviction didn’t match the indictment.”
That’s what Lockette is to decide upon considering Cannon’s request for a directed verdict – whether the jury erroneously came to its conclusion that Weaver was guilty. Directed verdicts are judges’ rulings in favor of defendants in jury trials. Lockette postponed his decision on Cannon’s directed verdict request until after the trial had concluded; he has not said when he will issue his ruling.
“I talked to a couple of jurors afterward and one of them said, ‘Yeah, he was installing equipment from other places and billing Alltel. Alltel shouldn’t have paid for that,’” Cannon said. “Chris got indicted for allegedly turning in false invoices for work never performed, not for falsely billing Alltel for work that was performed. It’s a very specific indictment. That’s the reason a directed verdict is in order.”
The five-day trial began last Monday and ended Tuesday; the jury was in recess the other four days. Weaver, 36, did not testify during the trial. Cannon says Weaver – who remains free on bond – is unemployed and looking for work.
On-Site installed cellular telephones with Alltel service into vehicles, racking up an estimated $300,000 in work annually. But over 29 months, Dougherty County prosecutors claimed, Weaver conspired with then-Alltel Vice President Jimbo Adams to steal about $470,000 from Alltel. Adams pleaded guilty to theft and testified for the prosecution, saying that he and Weaver billed Alltel for hundreds of jobs that weren’t performed. Weaver estimated that he gave Adams about $120,000 over the 29 months for steering business to his company.
During the trial, Maryann Gates – a former longtime Alltel regional manager who now works in the district attorney’s office – testified that there is no way for authorities to determine whether Weaver was reimbursed for work that was never performed. Indeed, Weaver said that much of the equipment he installed was not provided by Alltel, and Cannon attempted to support that claim with the testimony of Cellular One installers who claimed that as much of 80 percent of their business was of equipment not provided by the cellular telephone company.
Weaver initiated what ultimately became a criminal probe by telling Alltel investigators that Adams had covertly started a cell phone installation company, South Georgia Wireless, while still working for Alltel. Adams had quit giving On-Site his business and instead gave it to his own company, prosecutors said.
Then-District Attorney Ken Hodges said when Weaver and Adams were indicted in 2007 that the scheme began in 2000 and ended in 2005. Prosecutors said this week, though, that the crimes occurred between Aug. 1, 2001 and Dec. 31, 2003. The statute of limitations had nearly expired when the district attorney’s office began an investigation that ultimately resulted in charges under the Georgia Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act. Hodges said Adams and Weaver put their illicitly gained profits into about 20 bank accounts and real estate.
In addition to profiting from fraudulently claimed work, Adams received kickbacks from On-Site for legitimate installations, prosecutors said.
Hodges said in 2007 that the case had “just been sitting around” at the Albany Police Department before he took it over.