JANUARY 12, 2007
An influential county commissioner has admitted his starring role in a huge public corruption conspiracy that allowed him and his friends to pocket millions of dollars.
As a member of the Palm Beach County Florida Commission, Anthony Masilotti abused his position as a publicly elected official to secure secret land deals by influencing lucrative land-use changes that netted contractors hundreds of millions of dollars. The contractors returned the favor with large cash rewards and valuable land parcels for Masilotti and his relatives.
In November federal authorities used a popular statute, created to crack down on public corruption at all levels of government, to charge the powerful Florida politician with cases involving the illegal land deals that netted his family millions of dollars.
Called Honest Services Fraud, the statute makes it illegal for anyone to defraud and deprive the American people of the right to honest services and therefore allows prosecutors to charge public officials – as well as those providing them with financial inducements–with corruption even if there was no direct bribe to secure an official act.
For months, Masilotti denied the charges, but this week he finally admitted in a federal court hearing that he misused his elected position to personally enrich himself, his family and his secret business partners in a series of land deals that spanned various Florida counties.
As part of the plea agreement, the disgraced commissioner will forfeit two pieces of land worth an estimated $9 million and $175,000 in cash. He will also have to pay a $250,000 fine and could be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison.
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