FBI Nabs Birmingham Mayor In Bribe Scheme

Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford was arrested Dec. 1, 2008. WIAT

The mayor of Alabama's largest city, a player in a multibillion dollar sewer bond deal that drove the surrounding county to the brink of bankruptcy, faces federal criminal charges stemming from a bribery scheme, the U.S. attorney's office said.

U.S. Attorney Alice Martin said there were 101 counts in the federal indictment of Mayor Larry Langford, including "conspiracy, bribery, fraud, money laundering and filing false tax returns in connection with a long-running bribery scheme related to bond and other financial transactions of Jefferson County," reports CBS affiliate WIAT-TV. The charges all stem from Langford's term on the Jefferson County Commission.

Langford was arrested by the FBI around 7 a.m. Monday, according to bureau spokesman Paul Daymond.

He was accused previously in a Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit of taking more than $156,000 from a friend whose firm made millions on risky bond transactions with the county for a new sewer system.

Those bonds went sour as the housing market plunged this year and credit costs skyrocketed and have pushed the state's largest county to the brink of bankruptcy.

The SEC accused Langford of taking the undisclosed payments and benefits from Montgomery investment banker Bill Blount, whose firm collected more than $6.7 million in fees on county bond transactions. The money was allegedly routed through Al LaPierre, a lobbyist who is a friend of Langford.

Langford, Blount and LaPierre have denied any wrongdoing and asked that the lawsuit be thrown out.

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.

Associates at Blount's Montgomery firm said Blount was on his way to Birmingham.

Langford, 60, has drawn attention for a series of colorful stunts since taking office last year, many of which are aimed at trying to turn around an old steel city-turned-medical hub.

He walked into a business meeting with two police officers carrying submachine guns, props meant to generate interest in his "top secret" finance plans. He also announced a longshot bid to bring the 2020 Olympics to Birmingham, and his critics have even gone as far as to call him "Mayor LaLa."

The former promoter and television reporter has been unapologetic about his conduct, saying it's his job to sell the city.
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