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Press Release

Former General Counsel, Former Board Chairman at BVU Each Sentenced for Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Virginia
G. Walter Bressler and Bruce J. Clifton Previously Pled Guilty to Federal Conspiracy Charge

ABINGDON, VIRGINIA – In separate hearings this afternoon in federal court, the former general counsel for the Bristol Virginia Utilities Authority and the former chairman of the board of directors for BVU were sentenced as part of a wide-spread corruption investigation that has led to the conviction of several high-ranking officials at the service authority.

United States Attorney John P. Fishwick Jr. announced today that during separate hearings in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Abingdon, G. Walter Bressler, 74, of Bristol, Va., was sentenced to six months in federal prison and six months home confinement. He was also ordered to pay $10,000 forfeiture. Bruce J. Clifton, 64, also of Bristol, Va., was sentenced to five months in prison to be followed by five months of home confinement. He was also ordered to pay $5,000 in forfeiture. Both men previously pled guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit program fraud and having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony and concealing such a felony from the United States.

“The level of corruption that has been uncovered during the course of this investigation is staggering,” United States Attorney Fishwick said today. “Public corruption on any level will not be tolerated and we are thankful to our partners with the IRS and FBI for uncovering this illegal behavior and doing the hard work that was necessary to build solid cases against these defendants.”

According to information presented at previous hearings by Assistant United States Attorney Zachary T. Lee, Bressler was General Counsel for BVU from January 1, 2009 to March 1, 2015 and Clifton was a citizen member of the BVU Board of Directors from January 2, 2010 through March 27, 2016 and served as Chairman of the Board from July 2015 under March 27, 2016.

During an Executive Session of a BVU Board of Directors meeting in September 2013, Bressler, Clifton, and others, had specific discussions about violations of federal and state law, the types of violations that had occurred, and the consequences of those violations. Specifically, they had conversations about a trip members of the BVU Board of Directors were provided by a potential contractor to Dallas, Texas in November 2011. During that trip, the contractor provided board members in attendance with hotel expenses, limousine services, meals and tickets to a Dallas Cowboys football game, which included seats in a luxury box. The BVU Board of Directors entered into a contract with the contractor for the amount of $4,496,096. Additionally, at this same meeting, the members of the Board of Directors discussed the criminal wrongdoing of the former Chief Executive Officer and other executives at BVU related to receiving things of value from contractors wanting to do business with BVU.  As a result of these discussions, Clifton, Bressler and other board members agreed not to disclose these matters to law enforcement and to specifically avoid notifying the United States Attorney’s Office of the allegations of wrongdoing by the CEO and other employees at BVU. 

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation.  Assistant United States Attorney Zachary Lee and Special Assistant United States Attorney Kevin Jayne prosecuted the case for the United States.

Updated July 11, 2016

Public Corruption