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Local Politics Discuss Alabama mayor arrested on bribery, fraud charges at the Political Forums; BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- The mayor of Alabama's largest city was arrested Monday on charges of steering millions of dollars ...

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Old 12-02-2008, 10:39 AM
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Default Alabama mayor arrested on bribery, fraud charges

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- The mayor of Alabama's largest city was arrested Monday on charges of steering millions of dollars of bond work to a friend in exchange for more than $230,000 in bribes to pay for an expensive wardrobe and flashy jewelry.

The bond deals - which funded years of work on a substandard county sewer system - went sour and have helped push surrounding Jefferson County to the brink of filing the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

The charges stem from Mayor Larry Langford's time on the Jefferson County Commission, where he served four years as president. He is accused of telling Wall Street giants JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and the now-bankrupt Lehman Brothers that they had to include his friend's investment banking firm on the deal if they wanted to handle the county's bond work, which was worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Langford, his friend Montgomery investment banker Bill Blount and lobbyist Al LaPierre were charged in a 101-count indictment. The charges include conspiracy, bribery, fraud, money laundering and filing false tax returns. All three have pleaded not guilty.

U.S. Attorney Alice Martin wouldn't say whether the firms were cooperating with the investigation, and the companies either didn't return a telephone message or declined comment.

Langford left the county commission after being elected mayor in a landslide last year, and he since has become known for a series of outside-the-box ideas aimed at trying to breathe new life into an old steel city-turned-medical hub.

He walked into a business meeting with two police officers carrying submachine guns, props meant to generate interest in his "top secret" finance plans and announced a longshot bid to bring the 2020 Olympics to Birmingham, even though the city doesn't even have a major sports franchise.

Critics of his grandiose ideas have called him "Mayor LaLa." However, the former promoter and television reporter has been unapologetic, saying it's his job to sell the city. Just last week he gave a $10,000 city consulting contract to a 13-year-old girl who appeared before council members to discuss improving parks.

Langford was arrested by FBI agents at a beer distributor where he also has a public relations job.

"I'm going to work today," Langford told reporters outside the courthouse after being freed on $50,000 bond. A Democrat, Langford has said for months that he expected to be indicted in what he referred to as a witchhunt by Republican prosecutors.

Langford, who was elected mayor in a nonpartisan vote, identifies himself as a a Democrat. Blount, 55, is a former state Democratic Party chairman and LaPierre, 58, is a former state Democratic Party executive director.

The federal prosecutor disputed the partisan allegations, claiming the public corruption was a "classic pay-to-play scheme." She said Langford, 62, needed money for "crushing personal debt" caused by lavish purchases.

Also, Mary Buckelew, a Republican and former county president of the county commission, pleaded guilty in October to lying to a federal grand jury investigating the bond deals. She admitted to lying when she said she did not receive about $4,000 worth of shoes, a purse and spa treatments from an investment banker, identified as Blount in the indictment, during three trips to New York to discuss bond financing. She is cooperating with investigators and will be sentenced later.

The indictment also said Blount bought pricey items for Langford in New York, including a watch that cost $12,015. It said Blount paid Langford about $235,000 in bribes, sometimes with the money routed through LaPierre, to influence the bond deals that earned Blount's firm $7.1 million in fees. Some money went straight to Langford, while thousands went to pay off Langford's debts, prosecutors said.

The indictment also says Blount paid $219,500 to LaPierre for his help.

The three men have already denied similar allegations contained in a lawsuit earlier this year by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Jefferson County is trying to avoid filing bankruptcy over $3.2 billion in bond debt, which would nearly double the record for a municipal bankruptcy of $1.7 billion set in 1994 by Orange County, Calif.

The sewer bonds went sour as the mortgage crisis hit and banks tightened up on lending, sending credit costs for the bonds skyrocketing.

TBO.com - News From AP

Another batch of culls that need removing from society...
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Old 12-02-2008, 01:42 PM
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Default Re: Alabama mayor arrested on bribery, fraud charges

Lock em up and throw away the key...
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Old 12-02-2008, 02:50 PM
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Default Re: Alabama mayor arrested on bribery, fraud charges

It's getting to a point where the biggest plus a politician can have during their next campaign is "Vote (name)...They haven't been indicted"...
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Old 12-03-2008, 03:05 PM
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Default Update: Alabama mayor arrested on bribery, fraud charges

Indicted Ala. mayor talked of clothing debt

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- The always flamboyant and well-dressed mayor of Alabama's largest city told federal investigators last year that he had big debts, in part from buying expensive attire, and he had a buddy who simply helped him pay off the bills.

But prosecutors claim Mayor Larry Langford's upscale clothing and flashy jewelry purchases were part of a bribery scheme that steered lucrative county bond work to an investment banker friend and hundreds of thousands of dollars to another buddy, a well-known lobbyist in the state.

The three men were named in a 101-count indictment Monday that includes charges of conspiracy, fraud, bribery, money laundering and filing false tax returns. They have pleaded not guilty and are free on bond. Langford said the men, all Democrats, were targeted by a Republican U.S. attorney, a charge the federal prosecutor disputes.

"If y'all are waiting for me to drop my head and crawl through the halls, it ain't gonna happen," Langford, dapper in a gray suit with a colorful tie and sweater vest, said outside a City Council meeting Tuesday. "I will be the same Larry, good or bad depending on who you ask, as I have been in the past."

Last year, Langford described himself as "kind of a clothes person" in statements he made to Securities and Exchange Commission investigators, and said last year he asked lobbyist Al LaPierre to help him pay off his debts. He told investigators his longtime friend loaned him about $110,000.

Langford said he didn't know where LaPierre, 58, got the money, but that he would repay it after he sold some property, according to statements.

"We've been friends long enough that if I needed it, it was fine with him," Langford told the SEC investigators.

Langford, 62, wouldn't say Tuesday whether he stood by those previous statements.

An SEC lawsuit similar to the indictment allegations said the money was never repaid.

Prosecutors say LaPierre didn't have the money to help Langford and took out a loan that was repaid by the investment banker, Bill Blount, 55.

Blount's Montgomery firm allegedly made $7.1 million off risky bond deals with Jefferson County, where Langford was commission president for four years before becoming Birmingham's mayor.

The bond deals - which funded years of work on a substandard county sewer system - went sour and have helped push surrounding Jefferson County to the brink of filing the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Langford is accused of telling Wall Street giants JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and the now-bankrupt Lehman Brothers that they had to include Blount's investment banking firm on the deal if they wanted to handle the county's bond work, which was worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Prosecutors claim Blount paid LaPierre $219,500 in consulting fees for acting as a go-between with Langford.

Langford, a Democrat, has known Blount and LaPierre for years; Blount was an underwriter for VisionLand, a theme park that Langford built with county and other local government funds that crashed financially.

Langford has been known for outside-the-box ideas aimed at trying to grow the city. He announced a longshot bid to bring the 2020 Olympics to Birmingham, even though the city doesn't even have a major sports franchise. Just last week he gave a $10,000 city consulting contract to a 13-year-old girl who appeared before council members to discuss improving parks.

Langford is only the latest person charged with corruption in the sewer work. Three other commissioners were among more than 20 county officials, contractors and companies convicted on federal charges related to Jefferson County's sewer rebuilding work.

"There was just a culture of corruption surrounding the project," U.S. Attorney Alice Martin said. "Many involved in it wanted their piece of the pie."

TBO.com - News From AP
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