FBI probe leads to charges against Florida city commissioner
An FBI corruption investigation that became an issue in Florida's governor's race led to a 44-count federal indictment against a city commissioner who once ran the state's Democratic Party
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — An FBI corruption investigation that became an issue in the Florida governor's race led to a 44-count federal indictment Wednesday against a city commissioner who once ran the state's Democratic Party.
The indictment charges Tallahassee Commissioner Scott Maddox with bribery, extortion, bank fraud, racketeering and other crimes. Not mentioned in the indictment is Democratic nominee for governor Andrew Gillum, who served as Tallahassee's mayor during the investigation.
Gillum lost the governor's race to Republican former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who repeatedly said Gillum was being investigated by the FBI. Gillum repeatedly said he wasn't a target. Gillum lost by 32,463 votes out of more than 8.2 million cast — a margin so close it required a statewide recount.
Maddox once served as Tallahassee's mayor. In 2002, he was elected as chairman of the Florida Democratic Party. He resigned in 2005 to run for governor but dropped out of the race before the primary. He has also unsuccessfully run for attorney general and agriculture commissioner, both Cabinet positions.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott suspended Maddox from office shortly after the indictment.
Longtime Maddox associate Paige Carter-Smith is also charged. The indictment alleges that when Maddox returned to the city commission in 2012, he falsely claimed that he sold his interest in a lobbying and consulting firm to Paige and no longer had an interest in it.
The indictment alleges that Maddox and Carter-Smith continued to work together while Maddox was on the commission and took money from clients in exchange for favorable votes by Maddox, including ride-hailing company Uber.
It also alleges the two conspired to defraud a bank of more than $250,000 through two fraudulent short sales of real property and lied to investigators about their business arrangements and other matters.
Carter-Smith served as chief executive officer of the Tallahassee Downtown Improvement Authority during the investigation, which also involve the Internal Revenue Service.
Maddox and Carter-Smith appeared in federal court wearing leg shackles Wednesday afternoon. They pleaded not guilty to all charges. There were released under the condition they turn in their passports and not leave the region. A trial date was set for Jan. 14.
During the investigation, Gillum spent time with undercover FBI agents in New York City, joining them on a boat ride and accepting tickets to the Broadway show "Hamilton." The agents were posing as businessmen interested in Tallahassee development projects.
The state ethics commission is considering a separate complaint that Gillum accepted illegal gifts, including from the undercover agents.
Assistant U.S. Attorney' Stephen Kunz told federal Judge Charles Stampelos the FBI corruption investigation is ongoing.