FBI Investigating Restaurant Tied To Jacksonville City Councilwoman

Dec 20, 2016

Katrina Brown speaks at City Hall in January.
Credit City of Jacksonville

FBI agents and Jacksonville Sheriff's Office detectives are investigating a family business tied to City Councilwoman Katrina Brown.

The business, Jerome Brown BBQ restaurant on Commonwealth Avenue on the Westside, opened in August at the same location where the family originally planned to launch a barbecue sauce manufacturing business.

FBI evidence response team vehicles could be seen outside the business Tuesday morning.

According to city records, the business at that address owes $22,000 in back property taxes in 2015 alone. Records also show the business has yet to pay nearly $19,000 in property taxes this year. The family also owes property taxes on its Edgewood Avenue restaurant – $2,700 in 2015 and $2,400 in 2016.

Earlier this year, the city of Jacksonville told another company linked to the Brown family, COWEALTH LLC, that it needs to repay a redevelopment grant, because it has not followed the terms of its agreement.

The city said it could sue the company if the money is not repaid.

A letter, dated June 24 and addressed to JoAnn Brown, Katrina Brown’s mother, and COWEALTH LLC, stated that the company needed to pay $210,549.99 within 15 days. According to state records, JoAnn Brown is the registered agent of COWEALTH LLC, and an officer of the company. Katrina Brown, elected to represent District 8 in 2015, is also listed as an officer.

Part of that grant money included federal dollars from the Small Business Administration.

According to the letter, the company agreed to create 56 new jobs on or before April 30, 2016, as part of its agreement for a Northwest Jacksonville Economic Development Fund grant, but failed to do so. The agreement also called for the company to submit annual reports regarding job creation, which the letter states also has not happened. The grant was to help the company launch a manufacturing facility to produce a wide range of products, including Jerome Brown's BBQ Sauce.

According to city officials, any jobs created by the restaurant will not count as part of its agreement. 

City officials said after the letter was sent that they were still in discussions with COWEALTH LLC about repaying the grant. The Browns submitted a plan to the Office of Economic Development for repaying the grant money but that plan has not been approved.