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Four state legislators indicted in federal probe
May 26, 2005 12:00 am
May 26, 2005
Federal agents set up a phony electronics company to weave an elaborate investigative web that snared State Sen. John Ford of Memphis and three other lawmakers on bribery and extortion charges, court documents show.
Ford was indicted along with fellow Memphis state Sen. Kathryn Bowers, State Rep. Chris Newton of Benton and State Sen. Ward Crutchfield of Chattanooga. A former state senator, Roscoe Dixon, was also charged along with two other individuals, court records reveal.
The documents on file in U.S. District Court allege the lawmakers and their co-defendants routinely accepted bribes from a bogus Atlanta company set up by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents known as E-Cycle Management Inc.
The court records state the FBI set up the phony business "to respond to allegations of corruption by elected officials."
Ford accepted several payoffs from agents posing as representatives of the business and at one point threatened to kill two of them "if he caught someone trying to set him up," the indictment against him alleges.
The controversial state senator – whose previous legal woes helped spur a flurry of ethics bills in the General Assembly – co-sponsored legislation that he was told would be favorable to the bogus company and at one point even helped stall the bill after being told that would be a financial boost to the fake business.
"Yeah, send me a little money," one court document quotes Ford as saying when a representative of the phony company asked him if he "needed anything."
The indictment alleges Ford received a series of payoffs totaling $55,000.
Undercover agents posing as E-Cycle officials told lawmakers they were in the business of obtaining and disposing of outdated electronics equipment, the court documents reveal.
Newton and a man identified as Charles Love are accused of accepting $4,500 in payoffs to introduce a House bill that the lawmaker was told would be beneficial to E-Cycle, the indictment alleges. Crutchfield was charged along with a self-described "bag man" identified as Charles Love with accepting $12,500 in E-Cycle bribes for co-sponsoring and supporting "legislation beneficial to E-Cycle."
Love told agents that if the bogus company "had gifts to bear" for state lawmakers "they would get more attention concerning the legislation which they wished to get passed," according to the indictment, which says Love claimed "he had worked in the past 'bearing gifts' to legislators."
Several of the lawmakers were taken into custody in Nashville – some reportedly in handcuffs – as the General Assembly was preparing to work on the state's budget, according to area news broadcasts.
(Get full coverage of the General Assembly indictments in Friday's edition of The Lebanon Democrat.)