Monday, May 30, 2005

Capitol Hill Corruption: Operation Tennessee Waltz

Wall of Shame Posted by Hello

Around 8 a.m., FBI agents arrested Sen. Ward Crutchfield, (D) Chattanooga; Sen. John Ford, (D) Memphis; Sen. Kathryn Bowers, (D) Memphis; Rep. Chris Newton, (R) Cleveland.

Agents also arrested former Memphis senator Roscoe Dixon, who now works for the Shelby County mayor’s office; Barry Myers, from Memphis; and Charles Love, from Chattanooga.

The arrests were made based on indictments by a federal grand jury in Memphis.

According to the indictments, the suspects were accused of violating the Hobbs Act, which is a type of extortion, and of taking bribes to use their offices to help a company do business in Tennessee.

According to the FBI, the lawmakers accepted bribes from a fictitious undercover electronics company to sponsor legislation that would have helped the company make money.

The legislators sponsored or supported house bill 37 (bill 97 in the senate), which would have allowed the fake company to purchase surplus computer equipment from the state. Newton withdrew the bill on Wednesday because something didn't seem right about it.

The undercover company was called E-Cycle Management, Inc., which was in the business of “obtaining and disposing of outdated electronic equipment” and sending it out of the U.S. for salvage, according to the indictments.

Ford was accused of accepting $55,000; Crutchfield was accused of taking $12,000; Bowers was accused of taking $11,500; Newton was accused of accepting $4,500; and Dixon was accused of taking $9,500.

Ford was also accused of threatening or intimidating a witness in connection with the investigation.

Those indicted could face up to 20 years in prision and a $250,000 fine for the extortion charge alone.

According to the Associated Press, Love is a lobbyist who said last week that he lobbied legislators on behalf E-Cycle Management even though records show he was not registered to work for that firm.

The investigation, dubbed Tennessee Waltz, took two years, FBI officials said. The investigation was conducted by the Memphis and Knoxville FBI offices. Nashville and Chattanooga agents were also involved.


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