ATLANTA - The U.S. Attorney has charged a construction company owner with paying more than a million dollars in bribes to secure contracts in Atlanta.
The announcement sent shock waves through city hall. City Councilwoman, Felicia Moore, said simply, "It's a lot of money. It was shocking to myself and any member of the public who reads it."
The criminal charge alleges, in early 2011, E.R. Mitchell, Jr., owner of several construction companies, withdrew a total of some $270,000 in cash for payments to "an individual" to get city construction contracts. And then in 2014, Mitchell withdrew a total of some $260,000 in cash to pay "an individual" for another contract.
“Mitchell brazenly sought to buy government contracts,” said U.S. Attorney John A. Horn. “Contractors who bribe their way into public work undermine the integrity of the system and ultimately cost taxpayers more money to get important projects done.”
“This case clearly demonstrates that those individuals who attempt to illegally influence our public officials can easily find themselves the subject of a federal investigation and prosecution. Because of the vast harm caused by public corruption, the FBI continues to make it our number one priority within our criminal investigative program and we ask that the public promptly report any information regarding this type of activity to their nearest FBI field office,” said David J. LeValley, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office.
E.R. Mitchell, Jr. could not be found for comment.
Mayor Kasim Reed had no comment, but city attorney Cathy Hampton issued a statement saying her office helped the Justice Department for some time and that the allegation "undermines the public's trust in government. Accordingly, we will not rest until this case is fully resolved and justice has been served."
The criminal charge states another person in the construction industry also took part in the scheme and spells out how Mitchell gave bribe money to some mysterious individual, an "agent of the city," and expected them to pay off other city officials.
The charge also accuses Mitchell of money laundering.
"Everyone is interested in knowing who unnamed people are," says Councilwoman Moore, "who the recipients for some of the payoffs were."
Mitchell's father, E.R. Mitchell, Sr. started the E.R. Mitchell Construction company in the 1960's and worked until he passed away in 2012.
U.S. Attorney John Horn said, in a statement, Mitchell is expected to plead guilty soon.