AUGUST 18, 2006
Scandal and public corruption have hit a quiet Alabama city best known for a national park with a legendary waterfall that overlooks a scenic mountain and lush ravine.
After a lengthy federal investigation, two Gadsden councilmen and a political consultant have pleaded guilty to corruption charges in a bribery scheme over a real estate development.
The councilmen accepted cash payments in exchange for their vote in support of a lucrative project along the banks of the city’s Coosa River.
The officials, Jimmy Armstrong and Fred Huff as well as the political consultant, Larry Thompson, pleaded guilty this week in U.S. District Court in Alabama to participating in a bribery and wire fraud conspiracy that operated from August 2005 to February 2006.
The men admitted that they agreed to enrich themselves by soliciting and accepting cash bribes totaling thousands of dollars, something federal prosecutors called a “shocking betrayal of the public’s trust.”
For its part, the FBI claims that this case proves that public corruption at all levels of government remains a high priority for the agency. The FBI has even set up a corruption tip line (1-877-628-2533) to facilitate reporting such crimes and a web site http://reportcorruption.fbi.gov.
The corrupt Alabama officials could spend up to five years imprison and be forced to pay $250,000 each. That is big news for a little city whose main draw is a falling cascade named Noccalula after an Indian chief’s daughter.
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