LYNN HAVEN — With a May 31 trial date looming, former mayor Margo Anderson and construction company owner and co-defendant James Finch are hoping a federal court judge will dismiss the criminal charges against them.
The pair are accused of working together to defraud the citizens of Lynn Haven of honest services and of conspiring to enrich themselves through kickbacks and kickbacks. Each is also accused of lying to federal agents investigating their case.
In evidence hearings in late March and early April and in memoranda filed since then, attorneys for Anderson and Finch attacked the government’s case against them and accused investigators from the FBI and the Bay County Sheriff’s Office of breaking the law.
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A deadline for both parties to submit additional briefs for closing arguments has been set for May 24. Judge Mark Walker could issue a status order sometime after that date.
In a “post-evidence hearing brief” filed on Finch’s behalf, attorney Guy Lewis called on Walker to dismiss the case against his client, with prejudice, based on “repeated and flagrant government misconduct.” ” in the construction of his file.
Anderson confirmed that his attorney had filed a similar brief.
Among the charges in the defense brief is one that prosecutors withheld information implicating an investigator in large-scale corruption.
The brief said defense attorneys understood the conduct from testimony provided by former Lynn Haven town manager Michael White and former owner of erosion control specialist David White. The two pleaded guilty to charges stemming from their conspiracy to steal approximately $5 million from Lynn Haven in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in 2018.
The Defense Team’s Designated Officer was BCSO Major Jimmy Stanford. Finch’s lawyer claimed Stanford had a ‘close financial relationship’ with Derwin White, the now deceased head of GAC Contracting whose brief allegations had been ‘identified as a target of the investigation’ which ensnared Anderson and Finch.
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He said David “Mickey” White, Derwin White’s nephew, offered testimony implicating the owner of GAC Contracting.
The brief stated that many of Stanford’s alleged crimes “occurred during the investigation of this matter.”
BCSO spokeswoman Ruth Corley declined to comment on the allegations against Stanford. She said the sheriff’s office was bound by a court order not to comment on the pending case.
“We can’t say anything about anything,” she said.
Corley confirmed that Stanford remains on active duty with the sheriff’s office.
“Sheriff Ford would encourage everyone to suspend judgment until the official response to these allegations is released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” Corley said.
The memoir also questions the “investigative tactics, professional judgment and honesty” of FBI agent Larry Borghini, a senior agent for the Lynn Haven investigation.
“Despite receiving information from multiple sources that Major Stanford was involved in significant criminal acts and had intimate ties to the targets, neither Constable Borghini nor the government informed the Bay County Sheriff’s Office nor attempted to remove or isolate Major Stanford from the ongoing investigation,” it said.
Lewis also claimed in the briefing that Borghini used former assistant state attorney Greg Wilson, who was convicted of smuggling contraband into the Bay County jail, to spy on Finch, his co-defendants. and defense attorneys. He also claims Borghini lied under oath about Wilson during the witness hearing.
“Agent Borghini’s April 6, 2022 testimony was fabricated. It was patently false,” Lewis wrote. “His testimony is simply not credible. He provided false information before the grand juries and again before this court at the April 6, 2022 hearing.”
Brief also accuses federal officials of violating court orders regarding disclosure of evidence, withholding ‘Brady Material’ that implicates law enforcement officials for acts of dishonesty and ‘multiple and repeated violations’ “court orders and the intentional suppression of evidence favorable to the defense.
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The defense brief also names former Lynn Haven engineer Chris Forehand. He claims that the government had claimed to have granted Forehand immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony. He points to Forehand as a major player in the criminal enterprise that has taken over Lynn Haven.
“Forehand’s involvement in the multiple indictments permeates every aspect of the case,” he said.
Lewis claimed prosecutors never provided evidence that the engineer was offered a deal in exchange for testifying in the case against Anderson and Finch.
“Perhaps the most glaring” of the federal government’s failures to investigate the Finch and Anderson case, according to the brief, “is that the government repeatedly presented false and misleading information to several federal grand juries in such a way as to cause irreparable prejudice to the defendants”.
Anderson was still mayor when she was originally charged on August 18, 2020, along with then-city attorney Adam Albritton, on more than 60 federal charges. These included conspiracy to defraud, numerous counts of wire fraud and embezzlement of federal funds. She was also accused of depriving the town of Lynn Haven and its residents of their right to honest service and of lying to federal agents.
Finch, owner of Phoenix Construction, would later be charged and Anderson was further charged with conspiring with Finch to direct construction projects to his company in exchange for travel gifts and, in one case, a camper. because.
Some of the illegally purchased projects indirectly involved the removal of debris from Hurricane Michael and others occurred long before the storm, according to the indictments.
Anderson and Albritton’s indictments came nine months after five others, including former Lynn Haven city manager Michael White, were charged with federal crimes. Those charges stemmed from a scheme in which two companies worked with White to falsify invoices that allowed them to steal millions in aid to fund FEMA debris removal in the city after Hurricane Michael in October 2018.
White, Albritton, former Lynn Haven City Commission member Antonius Brown and former Lynn Haven Director of Recreation Services David Horton have all been charged before or with Anderson and Finch with conspiracy to defraud the city.
David White and his sister, Shannon Rodriguez, both with ECS, and Joshua Anderson, owner of Bay County’s Greenleaf Lawn Care, were also charged in the bribery case.
All of the defendants other than Anderson and Finch have pleaded guilty and are still awaiting sentencing.
This article originally appeared on The News Herald: Former Mayor of Lynn Haven Anderson, James Finch wants case thrown out