FBI: Birmingham mayor arrested on federal charges

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.–The mayor of Alabama’s largest city, Larry Langford, was arrested Monday on charges of steering millions of dollars of bond work to a friend in exchange for more than $230,000 in bribes that paid his debts for flashy clothes, jewelr

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.–The mayor of Alabama’s largest city, Larry Langford, was arrested Monday on charges of steering millions of dollars of bond work to a friend in exchange for more than $230,000 in bribes that paid his debts for flashy clothes, jewelry and Rolex watches.

The bond deals, which funded years of work on a substandard county sewer system, went sour and have helped push surrounding Jefferson County to the brink of filing the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Federal prosecutors said Langford, Montgomery investment banker Bill Blount and lobbyist Al LaPierre were charged in a 101-count indictment.

The charges also include conspiracy, money laundering and filing false tax returns.

The charges stem from Langford’s time on the Jefferson County Commission, which he left after being elected mayor in a landslide last year.

Langford, arrested by FBI agents at a beer distributor where he also has a public relations job, appeared in federal court in leg irons and pleaded not guilty through his lawyer.

"I’m going to work today," Langford told reporters outside the courthouse after being freed on $50,000 bond. A Democrat, Langford has said for months that he expected to be indicted in what he referred to as a witchhunt by Republican prosecutors.

U.S. Attorney Alice Martin said the charges were about public corruption, not partisanship.

"It was a classic pay-to-play scheme," said Martin.

She said Langford, 62, needed money because of a "crushing personal debt" stemming from lavish purchases of jewelry, high-priced watches and a wardrobe of clothes from exclusive men’s stores.

The indictment said Blount paid Langford $235,000 in bribes, sometimes with the money routed through LaPierre, to influence the bond deals that earned Blount’s firm $7.1 million in fees. Some money went straight to Langford, while thousands went to pay off Langford’s debts, prosecutors charged.

The indictment also says Blount paid $219,500 to LaPierre for his help. LaPierre also pleaded not guilty and was released on bond.

The three men have already denied similar allegations contained in a lawsuit earlier this year by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which accused Langford of taking more than $156,000 from Blount and routed through LaPierre.  AP

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Comments

From the Web