Skip to main content
Press Release

Florida Businessman Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Bribery Scheme

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

A Florida man was sentenced today to three years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of $1,250,000 for engaging in a scheme to bribe former Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox and for making false statements to the FBI.

On Aug. 13, John Thomas Burnette, 44, of Tallahassee, was convicted of extortion, honest services fraud, use of an interstate facility to promote bribery, and making false statements after a 15-day jury trial in the Northern District of Florida.

At trial, the government presented evidence that Burnette engaged in a multi-year scheme with Maddox and his associate, Paige Carter-Smith, to commit extortion, fraud, and bribery. During the scheme, Burnette and Maddox extorted bribe payments from FBI undercover agents (UCs) who were posing as real estate developers and entrepreneurs. Burnette instructed the UCs that to obtain preferential treatment, they must pay bribes to Maddox through Governance Services. Burnette, Maddox, Carter-Smith, and the UCs agreed that the UCs would pay Governance Services $10,000 per month in exchange for Maddox agreeing to perform official acts meant to benefit the UCs’ apparent development company.

In 2017, FBI agents approached Burnette, identified themselves as FBI agents, and asked Burnette about his involvement in the bribe payments to Maddox. During the interview, Burnette repeatedly lied about his knowledge of the UCs’ payments to and involvement with Maddox.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Jason R. Coody for the Northern District of Florida made the announcement.

The FBI and IRS–Criminal Investigation investigated the case.

Deputy Chief Peter M. Nothstein and Trial Attorney Rosaleen T. O’Gara of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen M. Kunz and Andrew J. Grogan of the Northern District of Florida prosecuted the case.

Updated November 9, 2021

Public Corruption
Press Release Number: 21-1111