Businessman Pleads Guilty to Bribing Gwinnett County Commissioner
Gwinnett County Businessman Bribed Gwinnett County Commissioner
in 2009 for Approval of a Waste Transfer Station
ATLANTA – Mark Gary, 39, of Duluth, pleaded guilty today in federal district court to a charge of bribing a Gwinnett County Commissioner in 2009 to secure approval of a proposed waste transfer station in which he held a personal stake.
“Today’s guilty plea shows that paying off a public official is a losing bet,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “Gwinnett County’s approval of competing real estate developments is not a game in which votes are for sale to the highest bidder. We will continue to aggressively pursue business people who corrupt the system by bribing public officials.”
Ricky Maxwell, Acting Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated: “This case illustrates that those who entice or bribe public officials will quickly find themselves as defendants in a public corruption investigation and prosecution. Public corruption continues to be a high priority investigative matter and the FBI remains committed to ensuring that such actions as Mr. Gary’s are brought forward for prosecution.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court, Mark Gary is a local Gwinnett County businessman. In or about October 2008, Gary sought to develop a $4 million solid waste transfer station, which served as a way station in the trash collection process, consolidating trash from haulers for shipment to more distant landfills. Gary submitted the necessary application to obtain the requisite County approvals and permits, which would require approval by the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners.
Shirley Lasseter was elected to the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners as the District 1 representative in the fall of 2008 and took office in January 2009. Gary worked to help get Lasseter elected as a county commissioner. Almost immediately after taking office, Lasseter appointed Gary to the Gwinnett County Planning Commission.
In March or April 2009, Gary spoke with Lasseter and her son, John Fanning, about Gary’s pending application to allow development of a solid waste transfer station. Gary offered money to Lasseter and Fanning, who discussed amounts with Gary of as much as $100,000, in exchange for Lasseter's Commission vote to approve the pending application. Given her public position and to avoid any scrutiny, Lasseter directed Gary to speak with and to provide the money to Fanning.
Gary’s permit application came before the Commission for approval on April 28, 2009. Consistent with her agreement with Gary, Lasseter voted to approve the development. Several months later, Gary lived up to his end of the bargain. In June 2009, Gary paid Fanning $30,000. Gary paid this amount by giving Fanning $30,000 worth of chips at an out-of-state casino.
Gary was charged in a Criminal Information on September 5, 2012, with corruptly agreeing to pay a bribe to Lasseter and Fanning. Gary pleaded guilty and could receive a maximum sentence of ten years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.
Sentencing is scheduled for January 3, 2013, before United States District Judge Charles A. Pannell, Jr.
This case is being investigated by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorney Douglas W. Gilfillan is prosecuting the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney's Public Information Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.