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Charlotte mayor of unknown party affiliation busted in FBI corruption sting

Charlotte mayor of unknown party affiliation busted in FBI corruption sting

The mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, Patrick Cannon, was arrested by the FBI on Wednesday after a lengthy investigation, charged with bribery and theft after accepting “more than $48,000 in cash, airline tickets, a hotel room, and use of a luxury apartment” in sting operations, according to the Charlotte Observer.  The whole affair sounds like it might have been a deleted scene from “American Hustle”:

At a Jan. 17, 2013 meeting, one FBI agent gave Cannon $12,500 in cash by putting it on a coffee table in front of him. Cannon, according to the affidavit, looked nervously toward a window and covered the money with a folder.

After the agent closed the blinds, Cannon put the money to his ear and fanned the bills.

FBI agents, working on a tip that Cannon, 47, was potentially involved in illegal activities, started an investigation in August 2010, Tompkins said in a statement.

Cannon – elected mayor five months ago after a long political career in Charlotte – solicited and accepted cash bribes and other items of value from undercover FBI agents, posing as commercial real estate developers and investors who wanted to do business in Charlotte, Tompkins said.

“On five separate occasions between Jan. 17, 2013 and Feb. 21, 2014, Cannon accepted cash payments from undercover FBI agents in exchange for access to city officials with responsibility for planning, zoning and permitting,” according to an affidavit filed in the case.

No, wait, it gets even better.  Tell me you can’t imagine Christian Bale with a bad comb-over mugging his way through this scene:

On a Dec. 12, 2012 dinner, Cannon asked the undercover agent if he’d be interested in investing in a business Cannon planned to start called HERS, a feminine hygiene produced to be sold nationally. He agreed to give to give Cannon a $12,500 zero-percent return on investment loan, in return for his assistance in getting approval for the zoning needed for the nightclub.

But Cannon said he needed $40,000. “I can do something for around $12,500. Any ideas how I can close the gap and get me some of that capital to get me started to pull this thing in?”

In exchange for the money, the agent asked Cannon “make sure I don’t run into any problems,” the affidavit said. Cannon replied: “I will definitely help you out. So you just want me to help you out on that front?”

I don’t mean to tell the FBI its business, but it seems like this comedy of horrors rolled along far beyond the point where it was pretty obvious that Cannon needed to go downtown for a little chat.  Then again, perhaps it’s best not to take chances when building a corruption case against top politicians.  You never know when a high-ranking law enforcement official from the same party might suddenly discover some pretext for dropping the case, even when you’ve got politicians accepting payoffs on video.  

And it’s not as if it took a long time for these charges to pile up; the sting operations against Cannon played out over the course of just 13 months.  He’s only been the mayor of Charlotte since last November.  According to a statement from the “deeply disappointed” city council, he would retain the office of mayor until he either resigns, or is convicted of a felony offense.  Late Wednesday afternoon, Cannon did indeed resign.  He could be looking at up to 20 years in prison and $1 million in fines.

Only one elusive detail remains for some team of dedicated investigators to nail down: Cannon’s party affiliation.  It’s apparently a baffling enigma to the Charlotte Observer, which does not mention it once during a lengthy article.  A spirited hunt through other local newspapers and TV network reports was undertaken by a posse of Internet volunteers, but mention of Cannon’s party identification remained extremely difficult to find.  Maybe the FBI can figure it out.  I understand they have a basement office that specializes in solving impossible mysteries.

 

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