Sentencing Hearings for Commissioner’s Son (a Zoning Board Member) and Another Associate Postponed Until September 18, 2012
ATLANTA—Former Gwinnett County Commissioner, Shirley Lasseter, 64, of Duluth, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Charles A. Pannell, Jr., to serve 33 months in federal prison for accepting bribes in exchange for her support for a proposed real estate development in her district.
“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,” said U.S. Attorney Sally Yates. “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.”
Lasseter’s son, John Fanning, 34, of Dacula; and Carl “Skip” Cain, 65, of Flowery Branch, an associate of Lasseter’s, were also charged in the bribery scheme and were scheduled to be sentenced today along with Lasseter, but Judge Pannell postponed their sentencing hearings until September 18, 2012, at the request of their lawyers.
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court, Lasseter served as the elected District One Commissioner on the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners until her resignation on May 31, 2012. Fanning is Lasseter’s son and operates a landscaping business. Fanning was also a member of the Gwinnett County Zoning Appeals Board, a position with a one-year term that began in February 2011 after he was appointed by his mother.
Lasseter, Fanning, and Cain agreed to sell Lasseter’s official approval of and vote for a proposed real estate development in her district to an undercover agent with the FBI, 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 with them 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 real estate development.
In multiple meetings, Lasseter and Fanning told the undercover agent that Lasseter’s approval and vote regarding the proposed development was for sale. They also told the undercover agent that Fanning could use his position as a member of the Zoning Appeals Board to help secure any necessary approvals or variances. Lasseter also discussed with the agent the possibility that, in exchange for the requested bribes, the county would buy any portions of the property that could not be developed profitably. Although Lasseter said that such a purchase would be difficult because a state special grand jury had investigated county land purchases, she confirmed that she would secure the necessary approvals for the undercover agent to develop the property.
In exchange for Lasseter’s official approval and vote, the defendants demanded and were paid or promised the following benefits:
■Lasseter received a total of $36,500 in cash, paid in several installments, the largest installment being a $26,000 cash payment that she and Fanning counted out together to ensure that 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 official approval and vote for the proposed development.
■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 “bagman” in leveraging Lasseter’s official position to enrich themselves personally 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. Fanning and Cain 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. Fanning and Cain 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, Fanning and Cain flew back with four kilograms of sham cocaine. After their plane landed in Atlanta, Fanning and Cain each took possession of two kilograms to make a delivery to a prospective buyer. Law enforcement officers detained Fanning and Cain before they could make the planned delivery. Law enforcement officers also confronted Lasseter the same day.
This case is being investigated by special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorney Douglas W. Gilfillan is prosecuting the case.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta recommends parents and children learn about the dangers of drugs at the following website: www.justthinktwice.com.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Information Office at USAGAN.Pressemails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.