An Alabama businessman pleaded guilty Friday in federal court in a conspiracy to bribe state legislators in exchange for their favorable votes on pending pro-gambling legislation, the Justice Department said.
Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer, who heads the department’s Criminal Division, said Ronald E. Gilley, 46, of Enterprise, Ala., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama to one count of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery, six counts of federal program bribery and four counts of money laundering.
Gilley and 10 co-defendants were charged in a 39-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on Oct. 1, with a variety of criminal offenses for their suspected roles in the bribery scheme. Jarrod Massey, 39, of Montgomery, Ala., a lobbyist for Gilley, pleaded guilty on Dec. 20. Nine other defendants include four Alabama current and former state legislators, two lobbyists, one business owner, a Gilley employee of Gilley and an employee of the Alabama legislature.
“Ronald Gilley thought votes could be bought and sold in Alabama,” Mr. Breuer said. “He participated in an audacious scheme to bribe state legislators into supporting a law that would fatten his wallet.
But he, like his co-conspirators, was stopped in his tracks. Now, Mr. Gilley must face the consequences of his corruption.”
Lewis M. Chapman, FBI special agent in charge of the bureau’s Mobile, Ala., field office, said Gilley’s plea “demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to investigate violations of the public’s trust.”
“His plea should further serve as a way to repair the public’s trust in local officials and demonstrates how people can and will be held accountable for their actions,” Mr. Chapman said. “The public is encouraged to continue to disclose information regarding corrupt activities by persons in positions of trust to the FBI. Investigations involving violations of the public’s trust represents one of the highest priorities of the FBI.”
According to court documents and evidence presented during a plea hearing, Gilley owned a controlling interest in Country Crossing, an entertainment and gambling development in Houston County, Ala., which also sought to offer electronic bingo gambling machines to the public.
Milton E. McGregor, who also was charged in the case, owned a controlling interest in Macon County Greyhound Park Inc., also known as Victoryland, in Macon County, Ala., and Jefferson County Racing Association in Jefferson County, Ala. He also had an ownership interest in other entertainment and gambling facilities in Alabama, including Country Crossing, which offered or sought to offer electronic bingo gambling machines to the public.
The records show that during the 2009 and 2010 Alabama state legislative sessions, Gilley and Mr. McGregor, along with others, allegedly promoted the passage of pro-gambling legislation that would have been favorable to the business interests of individuals operating electronic bingo facilities in Alabama, including themselves.
Mr. Breuer said Gilley admitted, among other things, his involvement in offering things of value worth millions of dollars to members of the Alabama legislature, in exchange for legislators’ votes. He said Gilley also admitted directing lobbyists who worked for him, including Massey and Jennifer D. Pouncy, to offer legislators bribes for their votes.
Pouncy, 34, of Montgomery, Ala., pleaded guilty on Sept. 28, 2010, for her role in the bribery conspiracy, and is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 11.
According to court documents, Gilley and others attempted to conceal the true nature, source and control of the payments made to members of the Alabama legislature in return for their favorable votes by, among other ways, engaging in financial transactions and disguising illicit payments through political action committees and using conduit contributors.