Attorney Leroi Johnson standing in front of one of his paintings.
Featured Finance Law News



By Jamie Moses

Trust is enormously valuable and necessary to our everyday lives. We trust that we can access the money we’ve put in the bank. We trust the school bus will deliver our children to school. We trust the company we work for will issue our paycheck. And often we trust our friends enough to lend them money and trust they will pay it back when they say.

This is a story of broken trust between friends.

LeRoi Johnson and friends in Times Square in front of the NASDAQ billboard featuring Johnson’s artwork. photo: FaceBook

#1  Attorney LeRoi C. Johnson of Buffalo, NY is a graduate of Canisius College and Georgetown University. He is also an artist whose award-winning artwork has been exhibited all over the world and featured on the cover of international art magazines. He’s a classical guitarist and a philanthropist who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for various nonprofit art and cultural organizations. He is also the brother of the late James Johnson, Jr., better known as the Funk-music king Rick James. LeRoi was heavily involved with Rick James’ career and instrumental in the success of the multi-platinum artist.

David E. Garnett and his wife Sheila Garnett

#2 David E. Garnett, of Buffalo graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, is a former Senior Vice President for Xerox Corporation, was a steward of the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, and in 1971 was a 9th round draft pick as running back for the Oakland Raiders (although there is no record he ever actually played for the team in any NFL game). Currently, Garnett is president of iAM Solutions, a company owned by his wife Sheila Garnett.

Jesse E. Russell Chairman and CEO of incCommunications, Inc. Wiki photo:

#3 Jesse E. Russell is from Nashville Tennessee and graduated from Tennessee State University and has a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Stanford. He is a former executive of Bell Labs and AT&T holding various leadership roles in wireless communications departments and is credited with major developments in cell phone technology. Currently, Russell is the Chairman and CEO of incCOMMUNICATIONS™ SERVICES, Inc.

When David Garnett approached LeRoi Johnson to borrow a very large sum of money he did so on the basis of their friendship, a friendship that stretched back to the 1960s when they both lived in the same neighborhood and both were star athletes in their respective schools, Garnett at East High and Johnson at Lafayette High. He did so on the basis of his reputation as a successful and responsible person. He did so on the basis LeRoi thought of him as his best friend and that he was the Godfather of LeRoi’s daughter. And lastly, he did so because he knew LeRoi Johnson trusted him.

East High School 1967 Track and Field Champions. photo: FaceBook

When asking to borrow money Garnett never mentioned that his co-borrower was Jesse E. Russell, but he did say he was involved in a big real estate deal in Baltimore and was $50,000 short and that his bank wasn’t going to release funds that he had in time to close the deal.

LeRoi Johnson said he would give him the $50,000 and David Garnett said he was going to give him back $100,000 in 30 days. This seemed incredulous.

AV: You said you’d lend him $50k and he said he was going to give you back $100K?

LJ: Yeah, but I didn’t ask for anything because this was my so-called best friend. I was going to give him the money with no interest or anything. But he didn’t want it like that. He said “no I want to take care of you.”

AV: That’s an insane return on your money.

LJ: It is insane, but that’s what he said he wanted.

AV: Did you know Jesse Russell?

LJ: Never met him. It wasn’t until he gave me the contract for the loan that he told me Jesse Russell was his partner and I told him I didn’t care about Russell. I said I’m not interested in your business. I said if you need the money, I’ll lend it to you.

All Johnson wanted was for the money to be repaid dollar for dollar. However, Garnett insisted that he wanted to make it profitable for Johnson and drew up a contract stating he and Russell would pay Johnson $100,000 in 30 days. But he wanted Johnson to write the $50,000 check to Jesse Russel’s company incCOMMUNICATIONS™ SERVICES Inc. because he said he and Russell were partners in the real estate deal and it was going through that company. Johnson gave him a check for $50,000 made out to incCommunications Services Inc.

The 30 days came and went and David began a game of stalling, dodging repeatedly saying he would pay the money next week, or the following week and that they were just waiting for the bank to release funds. Finally, I wrote to Jesse and he called me and said he’d have the money in two weeks or he would pay the debt out of his own pocket. That was in June 2019 and it was the last Johnson ever heard from him.

Johnson finally filed a lawsuit in November. But the filing of the lawsuit exposed some very suspect facts about the men, including it being near impossible to track Jesse Russell down to serve papers to.

The first red flag was Jesse E. Russell’s company incCommunications, Inc. was no longer operating out of its listed address in Eatontown, New Jersey. The company had another address at 200 Cottontail Lane, in Somerset, NJ, but those offices were also vacant. Then Johnson was told the company had moved to new offices in Washington, DC. But they weren’t at that address either and no one in the building complex had ever heard of a company called incCommunications Services. It seemed like the company didn’t really exist.

The company website states that “incCOMMUNICATIONS™ SERVICES is positioned to provide nationwide services” and that “Many of our employees hold Secret and Top Secret Government Security Clearances.” Yet besides not having any offices anywhere, a search on LinkedIn only turns up four people associated with the company incCOMMUNICATIONS™ SERVICES, one of them is an insurance salesman in Florida who only worked for incCOMMUNICATIONS™ SERVICES for a few months in 2014.

Another is listed as a software developer and he is living in South Korea and his primary passion is actually being a hip-hop rapper. And while on LinkedIn it says he went to Harvard and got a doctorate in Pharmacy on his Facebook page it says nothing about Harvard but says he’s a rapper who went to Emicom Ecole Superieur De L’informatique, a training school in Algeria for IT, marketing, accounting and tourism. He is also listed as currently working for Chimerex Inc., a research company in the medical field, which would make more sense if he actually does have a degree in Pharmacology.

A third person who is listed as COO is an old 1971 classmate from Tennessee State University. And the last and fourth person associated with the company is listed as its VP of Energy Solutions and Building Systems, but just like the rapper dude, he seems to be fully occupied elsewhere as well. Nowhere other than LinkedIn does he associate himself with incCommunications Services. This is the kind of thing that comes up in any Google search for the man: “Hello my name is Howard Sanford and I’m the CEO & Founder of Stealthletic Gear – EPIC Fitness Wear & Founder of Money Round Boxing League.” I fail to see any qualifications in this group for “Top Secret Government Security Clearances.”

Other little things began to look fishy, as well, like Jesse E. Russell’s incredibly long Wikipedia page that had a prominent warning from Wikipedia at the top of the listing that read:

“This article contains wording that promotes the subject in a subjective manner without imparting real information.” 

There was also a video online that was ten minutes of Jesse Russell talking about all the things he’d done and how he had more or less invented the cell phone. The video was part of a now-defunct series called “The Greatest Stories Never Told,” which focused on contributions to society by blacks. This particular video opened with “Today we spotlight Jesse Russell whose innovations in digital signal processing led to the modern cell phone that changed the world.” In the video Russell explains that AT&T was using analog cellular networks and that he came up with the idea to use digital instead, called CDMA (or code division multiple access), which was the 2g network, later followed by 3g and LTE and now 5g.

The problem with this claim is that digital signal processing for cell phones and radio signals was invented years before Russell worked at Bell Labs, actually before Russell was born. CDMA can be traced back to the 1940s. Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr and composer George Antheil are credited with the concept and were granted a patent in the 1940s, which she generously gave to the U.S. military. In Russia, the technology of CDMA was used in 1957, when the young military radio engineer Leonid Kupriyanovi in Moscow made an experimental model of a wearable automatic mobile phone, called LK-1 by him, with a base station. On July 1991, the world’s first commercial 2g phone call was made in Finland on Radiolinja’s network.

Cell phones had been in automobiles since 1946 but they used the analog system and weighed about 80 pounds in the beginning. In the late 1980s and early 1990s Japan, Europe, and the U.S. were all moving towards digital. It’s possible that Russell pointed out the advantage of digital to the team he worked with in those days but he did not invent the technology.

The bottom line is that no matter how long or deep you search you will not find Jesse Russell cited as the inventor of any part of cell phone technology unless it is a website where he is the source of the content. Sadly, he is the source used on several websites dedicated to honoring the contributions of black Americans. Russell does hold a half-dozen or so patents related to digital or wireless communication, (all filed years after 2g went into effect) but it is worth noting that as of October 2012, there were 250,000 active cellphone patents and that number has no doubt doubled by now.

Other than the exaggerated claims made by Russell there doesn’t seem to be anything unusual about “The Greatest Stories Never Told” video until you dig a bit and find that company that produced this gushing acknowledgment of Russell’s genius was iAM Solutions, the same company owned by Sheila and David Garnett. Go even deeper and it turns out that though David and Sheila Garnett claim they produced the shows they were actually produced by someone else and the Garnett’s took the credit but never paid the actual producer the full amount.

Looking further into David Garnett’s iamSolutions the company doesn’t seem to do anything. Just like Jesse Russell’s company website the iamSolutions site has not a single client listed. There is virtually no content other than some videos about blockchain that someone else made, a pdf of a 1994 article from the Harvard Business School about Xerox paying for 20 people to attend black caucuses, the Greatest Stories videos produced by someone else, and a link to another company, Quarrio.

And the language on the iamSolutions business consulting site is embarrassingly outdated. Today consulting firms tell you specifically what they will do for you like identifying where to cut costs, how to strengthen connections to your customers, expanding your social media audience, etc. The iamSolutions site is full of 1980s business gibberish that has no meaning like the following:

“Mr. Garnett is an expert at blending the strategic with the tactical activities to influence performance and effectuate start-ups, turnarounds and culture changes.  He is progressive and decisive with keen insight into key business, market, and technology drivers for policy deployment.”

David Garnett left Xerox in 2000 after working there for 22 years. There is little evidence he’s done anything in the past 20 years other than create an empty company and volunteer to sit on a number of boards and advisory councils.

Still more troubling to the situation with Garnett and Russell was the litigation case that Johnson dug up indicating Jesse Russell stiffed Trump International Inc. on a $560,000 loan, which Trump International was never able to recover.

Both Russell, Garnett, and incCommunications were finally served a summons of complaint but none of them has responded to date.

It can get ugly when you try to scam a lawyer, especially one with the street cred and road experience of Rick James’ bad ass brother. I believe Johnson will use all the legal weapons available to him.

About the author

Jamie Moses

Jamie Moses founded Artvoice in 1990

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment