Judge rejects bail for convicted staffing executive

A federal judge turned down a bail request by a staffing executive convicted of obstructing the Internal Revenue Service and failing to pay over payroll taxes, reasoning that the defendant had not established that he is not a flight risk especially considering the potential prison time he faces.

Greg Harrison is being held in Piedmont Regional Jail in central Virginia as he awaits sentencing in April.

The US government submitted evidence that Harrison withdrew a total of $79,426 from a business account last year as he awaited trial. Assistant US Attorney Frank Chut argued that the transfers undercut the credibility of a statement reportedly given by Harrison to pre-trial services that he had access to 0 to $500 per month.

“The point is that this calls into question the notion that Mr. Harrison had no other source of income and should be eligible for your services,” Judge James A. Beaty Jr. told public defender Tom Cochran.

Cochran affirmed that Harrison was the president of Global Labor, a staffing licensing company, and that he did make the withdrawals, but argued that the government failed to establish that the money was used for any purpose other than business. Cochran prompted Special Agent J. Todd Purgason, an IRS criminal investigator, to testify that one $10,000 withdrawal was paid over to Puryear & Lingle, a Greensboro law firm. Puryear & Lingle is representing Global Labor as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by a creditor.

The government also introduced high-resolution color surveillance photographs of Harrison making the withdrawals into evidence.

“Maybe Mr. Harrison takes out withdrawals wearing shirt sleeves and does all his business in cash,” Chut told the court. “It’s not the government’s burden to prove he’s not at risk to flee.”

The government also submitted a record of a June 2010 transfer from Global Labor to Harrison in the amount of $131,786 bearing the memo inscription, “Purchase of furniture and equipment by Global Investment Properties." Five days later, the government’s evidence indicates a transfer from Global Labor to Brooks Pierce law firm in the amount of $181,941 with the notation, “Retainer — BGH.” The defendant, whose full name is Bruce Gregory Harrison III, was indicted in November 2010 and had been under investigation for at least a year prior to that.

“Mr. Harrison was represented by Brooks Pierce,” Chut said. “We don’t know what happened to that money. This shows that he had access to significant funds at a point when he said he had access to zero to $500 per month.”

Purgason also testified that Harrison made point-of-sale purchases at restaurants and cash withdrawals drawn from a Global Labor account on a company-issued debit card prior to the indictment. The transactions were recorded in Greensboro; Jamestown; Myrtle Beach, SC; and Vail, Colo., including a ski lift ticket and restaurant tabs.

Cochran addressed concerns about a series of trips Harrison took to South Carolina to visit Global Labor’s lender, GrandSouth Bank, while awaiting trial. The government had previously questioned whether the trips violated the conditions of Harrison’s pre-trial release. Cochran said his client had obtained permission before leaving the Middle District of North Carolina, and Chut did not indicate any difference of viewpoint on the matter.

“If he were considering fleeing, I suggest he would have done that long before he was convicted, maybe before he was charged,” Cochran argued.

Judge Beaty countered that the prospect of a significant prison sentence changed the circumstances, adding that Harrison might have believed he would be acquitted.

Cochran also offered that Harrison’s sister was willing to put up $50,000 in cash and that the defendant would consent to the appointment of two third-party custodians, one of whom would be in his presence at all times. Cochran acknowledged that one of the custodians was an employee of Global Labor.

“Put the fox in the henhouse,” Judge Beaty remarked, “if you want to be a little more specific about what that may represent.”

William Ray and Juraj Slovak, respectively the director and manager of Global Labor, attended the hearing, along with Harrison’s fiancée, Melissa Cullen; his ex-wife, Diona Slaughter; and Jessica Cox, a lawyer close to the family who has observed many of the court proceedings.

Chut argued that Harrison’s word has no credibility because he introduced a false document into evidence at the end of the trial and attempted to perpetrate a fraud on the court when he submitted a document purporting to show that he had transferred operations of the staffing companies to two partners before the period in which the payroll taxes were not paid. Chut told the court that the jury’s conviction after considering the document essentially amounted to a finding of perjury.

The hearing was held up for three hours when federal officials accidentally delivered Harrison to Alamance County instead of to the federal building in Winston-Salem.

Harrison entered the courtroom with a chain around his waist and with his hands cuffed in front of him. He wore a blue dress shirt, but not the jacket-and-tie ensemble that was a fixture of his appearance during the trial. Streaks of gray have appeared in his brown hair since the government took him into custody more than a month ago. He looked quietly hopeful throughout the hearing, even when he turned to look at his fiancée before walking back out.

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