WASHINGTON – Two former members of the City Council of Gadsden, Ala., a former city employee, and one consultant have been sentenced for their participation in a bribery and wire fraud conspiracy that operated from August 2005 through February 2006, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division announced today.
The charges arise from Operation Costly Influence, an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Each defendant was sentenced yesterday by the Hon. L. Scott Coogler, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.
Jimmy L. Armstrong, 70, a former member of the Gadsden City Council, was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Fred L. Huff, 66, a former member of the Gadsden City Council, was sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay $1,000 in restitution and a $6,000 fine. Cathy E. Black, 54, the former director of the Gadsden Commercial Development Authority, was sentenced to 22 months in prison and ordered to pay $1,000 in restitution. And Larry R. Thompson, 55, a political consultant, was sentenced to 50 months in prison.
Each defendant pleaded guilty in August 2006 to one count of conspiring to commit federal programs bribery, and honest services wire fraud. The charges stem from a bribery scheme in which Thompson, working with an individual who was cooperating with the FBI, made cash payments to influence and reward members of the Gadsden City Council for their votes in connection with a real estate development.
As part of their plea agreements, Armstrong and Huff each admitted that they agreed to enrich themselves by soliciting and accepting cash bribes from Thompson and the cooperating witness. They did so with the intent of being influenced and rewarded in connection with two votes they both cast that aided a mixed-use real estate development along the banks of the Coosa River in Gadsden. Armstrong admitted that he accepted two cash payments for his votes supporting the development totaling $800, and Huff admitted that he accepted four cash payments for his votes supporting the development totaling $1,800. Thompson admitted that he conspired to bribe Armstrong, Huff, and two additional members of the City Council.
These cases are being investigated by the FBI, and prosecuted by Trial Attorney John P. Pearson of the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice, which is headed by Section Chief William M. Welch II.