Former owner of Extreme Logistics sentenced for fraud

By Jamie Satterfield

It hardly seemed a home befitting a man whose Loudon County trucking business was skidding toward bankruptcy.

There was a swimming pool and pool house, a sand volleyball court, a full-sized outdoor basketball court, a football field, a motocross track, a horseshoe pit and a gym stocked with pricey equipment.

Federal prosecutors contend that Joseph D. Bradenburg built that sports entertainment complex by siphoning money from his Extreme Logistics trucking business - cash he now admits the firm wasn't entitled to in the first place.

When it came tumbling down around him, his truckers were left stranded on the road, unable to buy gas to finish their shipments and, ultimately, unemployed.

It was that portrait of a small-scale Enron scandal that Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Morris wanted U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips to see Tuesday as he considered the 39-year-old businessman's fate for defrauding Prime Financial Services Inc. of $2.5 million and the IRS of more than $700,000.

"This wasn't a fraud that was just designed to keep the company afloat," Morris argued. "The defendant was living well in a fairly extravagant home. While he was living well, his company was going down the tubes."

Defense attorneys Donald A. Bosch and Ann Short-Bowers urged Phillips to cut Brandenburg a break, noting his efforts to repay his ill-gotten gains and his role as father and grandfather.

"This is a case that really begs the question of how much is enough," Bosch said. "As a result of his behavior, virtually everything he (owned) is gone. He is trying to do the best he can (to pay restitution). He can't do that sitting in jail."

Bosch sought a 33-month sentence. Morris pushed for as much as 57 months. Phillips settled at 46 months.

"The defendant has not shown his family and personal circumstances are outside the heartland of cases this court sees every day," Phillips said.

Court records show that Brandenburg's firm hauled goods for businesses such as Bowater, BMW and General Motors. He had a deal with Prime Financial in which the lender would pay his firm a percentage of each shipment as soon as it was made. Prime, in turn, would handle invoice collections, a process that often took 30 days or more per shipment.

Beginning in 2004, Brandenburg began peppering Prime with fake invoices for shipments never made. Morris said that when Prime grew suspicious, Brandenburg submitted a "bogus" letter purported to be from Bowater explaining away discrepancies.

Brandenburg also has admitted claiming a $1.8 million tax loss, concealing from the IRS the money he siphoned from his business to build his personal sports complex