ATLANTA — A former Gwinnett County commissioner was sentenced to just less than three years in prison on federal bribery charges while sentencing was postponed for a Hall County businessman involved in the scheme.
Shirley Lasseter was sentenced Wednesday to 33 months and three years of supervised release after pleading guilty in May.
Lasseter’s son, John Fanning, and another man, Hall County businessman Carl “Skip” Cain, were also charged.
Their sentencing, originally set for Wednesday, was postponed to Sept. 18 at the request of their attorneys.
The three pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a scheme to take bribes in exchange for Lasseter’s influence and vote for a proposed real estate development.
They each faced up to 10 years, supervised release, payment of restitution and a maximum fine of $250,000 for the bribery charge.
Fanning, 34, of Dacula and Cain, 65, of Flowery Branch also face a minimum of five years and up to 40 years for a drug trafficking charge.
According to U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates, the charges and other information presented in court, Lasseter, Fanning, and Cain agreed to sell Lasseter’s vote for a proposed real estate development in her district to an undercover FBI agent, who was posing as a businessman.
Cain, who works at a trucking business, served as a “bagman” for Lasseter and Fanning, arranging the bribes required for their official approval and setting up meetings for the payment of the requested bribes. After Cain said that he was interested in making money from drug trafficking and illegal money laundering, the undercover agent told the defendants a fabricated story that he laundered money for drug dealers and that drug trafficking proceeds would fund the proposed development.
In exchange for Lasseter’s vote, the defendants demanded and were paid or promised the following benefits:
• Lasseter received $36,500 in cash, paid in several installments, the largest being a $26,000 cash payment that she and Fanning counted out together to ensure the total was correct. Each time Lasseter received cash in exchange for her official action on the proposed development, she confirmed to the undercover agent that she would give her vote for it.
• Cain was paid a total of $10,000, which he demanded as his fee for arranging Lasseter and Fanning’s involvement.
• Fanning was to receive an ownership stake in a business to be located in the proposed development.
Lasseter, Fanning, and Cain also said that they wanted to work with the undercover agent on additional matters involving misuse of Lasseter’s official position and other illegal activities. In several meetings, Lasseter and
Fanning sought to enlist the agent’s help as a “bag man” in leveraging Lasseter’s official position to enrich themselves from the proposed privatization of the Gwinnett County Airport.
In addition, Fanning and Cain acted as couriers delivering what they believed to be cocaine and what they believed to be drug money. Each laundered $10,000 in cash, keeping an amount that represented what they understood to be the standard fee for laundering proceeds from illegal drug trafficking. They also transported a substance that they believed to be cocaine from the New York City area to Atlanta. After flying to the New York City area and spending the night, they flew back with four kilograms of sham cocaine. After their plane landed, Fanning and Cain each took possession of two kilograms to make a delivery to a prospective buyer. Law enforcement officers detained the men before they could make the planned delivery. Law enforcement officers also confronted Lasseter the same day.
“Today’s sentence reflects that public officials who betray the public trust and abuse their public office to line their own pockets will pay a heavy price,” Yates said in a statement. “The elected office of County Commissioner carries with it a tremendous duty of loyalty, honesty, and responsibility to serve the best interests of the citizens of Gwinnett County. This defendant sold that office for her own profit, promising to approve a real estate development project for individuals whom she believed to be drug traffickers. She earned her significant sentence for violating the public trust and the law.”
Ricky Maxwell, acting special agent in charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated: “The FBI did not and will not hesitate in dedicating extensive investigative resources in addressing such public corruption investigations as seen here. While today’s sentencing is the result of extensive investigative work of many individuals and agencies working together, the private citizen remains as an important and vital role in combating such criminal activity by reporting such matters to their nearest FBI field office.”
Associated Press contributed to this report.