Eight years into his 16-year federal prison sentence for a multimillion-dollar historic tax credit scheme, a notorious Richmond real estate developer is getting a reprieve.
Justin French has won early release and is set to be freed Oct. 10, 2020, according to a notice issued by the Bureau of Prisons that BizSense obtained.
The notice, which was issued to victims of French’s scheme through the U.S. Justice Department’s notification system, was sent out in April.
In an email, a spokesperson with the Bureau of Prisons would not disclose any details related to French’s early release, but said federal sentencing law allows inmates to earn up to 54 days of good conduct time credit for each year served.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not return calls for comment.
William Ray Baldwin III, an attorney with Richmond-based Meyer Baldwin Long & Moore who represented French, would not comment on the matter.
Now 48, French is serving his sentence in a federal facility in Miami, Florida.
He was to serve a 16-year sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty to a real estate scheme in May 2011, which is calculated to have netted him more than $11 million at the expense of a long list of victims, including the IRS, the Virginia Department of Taxation and more than 100 individual investors.
Earlier that year, French confessed to charges of conducting unlawful monetary transactions and wire fraud that arose from his efforts to obtain and sell historic tax credits on real estate projects.
Through his firm French Consulting Co., French applied for and received tax credits from the state and federal government for rehabilitating historic buildings for a five-year period.
Court documents highlighted that French admitted he grossly inflated his development costs in order to receive larger tax credits, which would be sold to investors. He also forged invoices submitted by contractors and his accountant, who certified the costs as part of the application process that is required by the state for projects exceeding a certain amount.
Prior to his conviction, French had been a front-runner in redevelopment of now-popular neighborhoods such as Manchester and Scott’s Addition.
He also had been a collaborator with fellow local – and now imprisoned – developer Billy G. Jefferson, who is serving a 20-year federal prison sentence for his own felonious misuse of state and federal historic tax credits. Jefferson was convicted in 2014, three years after French.
Among their dual projects was the former Parachute Factory apartment complex at 300 Decatur St. in Manchester, before losing it in foreclosure. It since has been acquired by Boston-based Davis Cos. and local firm Spy Rock Real Estate Group, and renamed South Bank apartments.