Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford Arrested on Bribery Charges

December 2, 2008

larry-langford.jpgThe mayor of Alabama’s largest city, Larry Langford, was arrested Monday on federal bribery and fraud charges connected to a multibillion-dollar sewer bond deal that has driven the surrounding county to the brink of bankruptcy.

Federal prosecutors in Birmingham said Langford, Montgomery investment banker Bill Blount and lobbyist Al LaPierre were charged in the 101-count indictment released Monday. The charges also include money laundering and filing false tax returns.
Langford is accused of receiving $230,000 in bribes from Blount, some of them routed through LaPierre, to influence the bond deals while Langford was president of the Jefferson County Commission. Blount’s firm made $7.1 million in fees from the bond work.
The three men have denied any wrongdoing in the face of similar allegations contained in a lawsuit by federal regulators.
Langford, 60, was taken into custody around 7 a.m. Monday, FBI spokesman Paul Daymond said. Langford was president of the Jefferson County Commission before he was elected mayor last year. Birmingham is in Jefferson County.
The county is trying to avoid filing what would be the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history over $3.2 billion in debt for sewer bonds, nearly double the record of $1.7 billion set in 1994 by Orange County, California.
Those bonds went sour as the mortgage crisis hit and banks tightened up on lending, sending credit costs for the bonds skyrocketing.
The Securities and Exchange Commission accused Langford in a lawsuit of taking more than $156,000 in undisclosed payments and benefits from Blount and routed through LaPierre.
David McKnight, an attorney for Blount, said Blount was on his way to Birmingham to surrender.
An attorney for LaPierre, Tommy Spina, told The Birmingham News that LaPierre would be surrendering later Monday. Spina did not immediately return a call for comment.
The mayor’s chief of staff said city business would go on as usual.
Source: AP

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