Gwinnett County District 1 Commissioner Shirley Lasseter entered a guilty plea today in federal court on charges she accepted bribes in return for her support for a proposed real estate development.
According to a press release from the United States Attorney's Office, Lasseter’s son, John Fanning, 34, of Dacula, and Carl “Skip” Cain, 65, of Flowery Branch, an associate of Lasseter’s, also entered guilty pleas in connection to the bribery scheme and to drug trafficking.
“Today’s guilty pleas are part of an on-going effort to root out public corruption in Gwinnett County,” said U.S. Attorney Sally Yates in a released statement. “The citizens of Gwinnett County have a right to elected officials who serve the public. Instead, these defendants used the office of a County Commissioner to line their pockets by taking payoffs from individuals whom they believed to be drug traffickers. These defendants broke the public trust and the law. We will continue to aggressively pursue corrupt public officials and those who conspire with them.”
Lasseter, a former Duluth mayor, was elected to the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners in 2009. In 2011, she appointed her son Fanning to the Gwinnett County Zoning Appeals Board. Fanning, who operates a landscaping business, along with Lasseter and Cain agreed to sell Lasseter's vote in favor of a proposed real estate development. The agreement was made with an undercover agent of the FBI posing as a businessman.
Cain arranged the bribes and set up the meetings for the payments to be made, according to the United States Attorney's Office.
"In multiple meetings, Lasseter and Fanning told the undercover agent that Lasseter’s approval and vote regarding the proposed development was for sale. They also told the undercover agent that Fanning could use his position as a member of the Zoning Appeals Board to help secure any necessary approvals or variances," the press release stated.
During the undercover investigation, the following arrangements were made in return for Lasseter's approval and official vote:
- Lasseter received a total of $36,500 in cash. Lasseter confirmed to the undercover agent that she would give her official approval and vote for the proposed development each time she received a cash payment.
- Cain was paid a total of $10,000 to arrange the meetings between Lasseter, Fanning and the undercover agent.
- Fanning was to receive an ownership stake in a business to be located in the proposed development.
- Fanning and Cain also each laundered $10,000 cash and acted as couriers delivering what they believed to be cocaine and drug money. They were taken into custody before they could deliver the fake cocaine.
Lasseter, Fanning, and Cain also reportedly expressed an interest in working with the undercover agent on additional matters involving misuse of Lasseter’s official position and other illegal activities. Included among these matters was the controversial privatization of the Gwinnett County Airport.
"Lasseter and Fanning sought to enlist the agent’s help as a 'bag man' in leveraging Lasseter’s official position to enrich themselves personally from the proposed privatization of the Gwinnett County Airport," the press release stated.
According to the United States Attorney's Office, all three defendants are cooperating with law enforcement. Lasseter was charged on May 31, 2012 with corruptly soliciting and accepting a bribe. She has pleaded guilty and could receive a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
Fanning and Cain were charged with participating in the bribery scheme and with drug trafficking. Both pleaded guilty and are facing up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on the bribery count. Both men face a mandatory minimum sentence of five years on the drug trafficking count, which, according to officials, carries a maximum sentence of 40 years and a fine of up to $5 million.
Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 6, 2012.
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