September 16, 2020

Florida officials indicted on fraud charges

A federal grand jury has indicted the mayor and attorney of a Florida city on multiple counts of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, honest services fraud and stealing from a federal program. The Lynn Haven mayor also faces a charge of lying to FBI agents. The Lynn Haven city attorney faces an additional count connected to an allegedly fraudulent insurance claim. The charges are linked to what federal prosecutors describe as a scheme to illegally obtain funds allocated to the Bay County city to clean up damage caused by Hurricane Michael in October 2016. The indictment was announced on Aug. 19 during a press conference held by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Officials allegedly gave themselves emergency powers

According to U.S. attorneys, the two city officials took advantage of a desperate situation by approving a resolution that gave them emergency powers to spend public money and enter into contracts without following procedures that are usually required under Florida law. The officials are then said to have used these powers to bilk taxpayers out of millions of dollars. Court papers reveal that a local company was allegedly paid to perform unauthorized cleanup work at both the mayor and city attorney’s private residences. This work alone is said to have cost taxpayers almost $75,000.

Officials face decades in federal prison

The crimes the two officials are charged with carry severe penalties. The fraud counts carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in a federal corrections institution, and a conviction for theft from a government program could add as much as 10 years to any custodial sentence handed down. The mayor faces an additional five years in prison if she is found guilty of lying to federal agents, and the city attorney could be sentenced to an additional 20 years if he is convicted of submitting a falsified insurance claim.

White collar crime cases

Cases like this one are rarely argued before juries because they are complex and can be difficult to follow. If you are accused of committing a white-collar crime, an experienced criminal defense attorney could advocate on your behalf during plea negotiations by pointing out mitigating factors such as your sincere remorse and desire to make restitution. If the evidence against you is less than compelling, an attorney could question the validity of the charges against you in court.

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