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News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 20, 2006
Contact: Ruth Porter-Whipple
Number: 404-893-7128

Memphis City Councilmen Indicted

DEC 20 -- Memphis, TN - David Kustoff, United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, My Harrison, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Memphis Division, and Andrew Dimond, Resident Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Memphis Resident Office, announced the indictments of Memphis City Councilmen Rickey Peete and Edmund Ford, who are charged with bribery offenses. These defendants were previously charged in complaints unsealed on November 30, 20061. The cases were developed as part of Operation Mainstreet Sweeper.The indictments allege that, in exchange for their assistance in influencing City Council votes on certain matters, Peete and Ford received cash payments from Joseph Cooper ("Cooper"). According to the indictments, Cooper assisted individuals who had interests in matters pending before the Memphis City Council. The indictments allege that, in August 2006, Cooper agreed to assist federal agents in investigations with the hope that this cooperation will be taken into account in the disposition of a pending federal criminal case against Cooper. As part of this cooperation and under the supervision of federal agents, Cooper made the payments to Peete and Ford from August 30, 2006, through November 30, 2006, that are alleged in the indictments.

The indictment against Peete alleges that Cooper had an ongoing relationship with Peete whereby Cooper periodically made cash payments for Peete's influence. The indictment against Ford alleges that Cooper had an ongoing relationship with City Council member Ford whereby Ford regularly supported proposals backed by Cooper. According to the indictment, Cooper performed favors for Ford, including assisting in Ford’s acquisition of a Cadillac with financing in the name of a third person, although Ford was responsible for making the payments. In addition, according to the indictment, Cooper assisted Ford in obtaining a loan to remodel his mortuary.

According to the indictments, Cooper made the following cash payments to Peete and Ford to help secure City Council approval for a real estate development and a billboard alongside Interstate 240:

On or about August 30, 2006, paid $3,000 to Ford.
On or about October 2, 2006, paid $1,900 to Ford.
On or about September 12, 2006, paid $3,000 to Peete.
On or about September 20, 2006, paid $4,000 to Peete.
On or about October 4, 2006, paid $5,000 to Peete.

In addition, according to the indictment against Ford, on or about October 27, 2006, Cooper paid $2,000 to Ford in exchange for his vote and his support in overturning a portion of the sign ordinance.

In addition according to the indictments against Peete and Ford, on or about November 30, 2006, Cooper paid $2,500 to Peete and $2,000 to Ford in exchange for their support in placing on the City Council meeting agenda an item concerning the reappointment of the chairman of the Board of Adjustments.

The total of the payments allegedly received by Ford total $8,900. The total of the payments allegedly received by Peete total $14,500.

The indictments against Peete and Ford charge violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a) based on the receipt of cash bribes. Section 1951 provides in relevant part that:

(a) Whoever in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce, by robbery or extortion or attempts or conspires so to do, or commits or threatens physical violence to any person or property in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both. ....(b)(2) The term "extortion" means the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.

The penalties for a violation of section 1951 are a maximum prison term of 20 years imprisonment, a fine of not more than $250,000 and a term of supervised release of not more than 3 years.

The indictments also charge that Peete and Ford violated 18 U.S.C. § 666(a)(1)(B). Under this statute, it is a crime for an agent of a local governmental agency that receives more than $10,000 in Federal assistance in a year to solicit or accept a bribe in connection with a transaction or series of transactions of that agency involving any thing of value of $5,000 or more. The penalties for a violation of section 666(a)(1)(B) are a maximum prison term of 10 years imprisonment, a fine of not more than $250,000 and a term of supervised release of not more than 3 years.

These indictments result from multi-agency cooperation in a series of investigations. The affidavit supporting the complaint against Cooper alleges that the case against him arose from a long-running narcotics investigation that has already resulted in indictments charging 26 defendants. Those charged in the other cases include a Shelby County Deputy Sheriff and a Shelby County Deputy Jailer.2

The investigation of Cooper and the related investigations of drug dealers were conducted by the Memphis Resident Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration in partnership with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. The investigations of Peete and Ford -- which as alleged in the indictments utilized Cooper's assistance -- were conducted by the FBI’s Memphis Division, with assistance from the DEA and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tom Colthurst, Vivian Donelson and Larry Laurenzi, with the Office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee.

Charges brought against a person through an indictment are accusations only. That person is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. In addition, the fact that a matter is under investigation is not a reflection on the guilt or innocence of any person.

Operation Mainstreet Sweeper is a continuing investigation.

# # # #


1 See prior US Attorney’s Office press release: Complaints Unsealed Against Memphis City Councilmen Rickey Peete and Edmund Ford and Former Shelby County Commission Candidate Joe Cooper (Nov. 30, 2006).

2 See prior US Attorney press releases: Complaint Unsealed in Drug Conspiracy Case Charging Eight Defendants, Including a Shelby County Deputy (October 25, 2005); Complaint Filed Against Deputy Jailer Charging That She Stored Cocaine at Her Residence (December 6, 2005); Superseding Indictment Unsealed after Arrests in Cocaine and Marijuana Conspiracy Case (August 4, 2006).

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