(Source: FBI) - ATLANTA—Mark Gary, 39, of Duluth, made an initial appearance today before United States Magistrate Judge Gerrilyn G. Brill on a federal charge of bribing a Gwinnett County Commissioner in 2009 to secure approval of a proposed waste transfer station in which he held a personal stake. Gary, who is charged in a criminal information, was released on bond.
“Paying off a county commissioner with $30,000 in casino chips doesn’t just skew the playing field, it turns it upside down,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “Gwinnett County’s development decisions should be based on what’s best for the county, not who places the highest bet. We will continue to aggressively pursue corrupt public officials and the business people who pervert the system.”
Ricky Maxwell, Acting Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated, “Influential businessmen with the monetary means and the objective to illegally influence government business in their favor is a scenario often seen in public corruption cases. Today’s charges in federal court make it clear that those providing public officials with the opportunity to engage in corrupt and criminal activity will be pursued by investigators and prosecutors as well.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges, and other information presented in court, Mark Gary is a local Gwinnett County businessman. In or about October 2008, Gary sought to develop a $4 million solid waste transfer station, which serve as way stations in the trash collection process, consolidating trash from haulers for shipment to more distant landfills. Gary submitted the necessary application to obtain the requisite county approvals and permits, which would require approval by the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners.
Shirley Lasseter was elected to the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners as the District 1 representative in the fall of 2008 and took office in January 2009. Gary worked to help get Lasseter elected as a county commissioner. Almost immediately after taking office, Lasseter appointed Gary to the Gwinnett County Planning Commission.
In March or April 2009, Gary spoke with Lasseter and her son, John Fanning, about Gary’s pending application to allow development of a solid waste transfer station. Gary offered money to Lasseter and Fanning, who discussed amounts with Gary of as much as $100,000, in exchange for Lasseter’s commission vote to approve the pending application. To avoid detection, Lasseter directed Gary to speak with and to provide the money to Fanning.
Gary’s permit application came before the commission for approval on April 28, 2009. Consistent with her agreement with Gary, Lasseter voted to approve the development. Several months later, Gary lived up to his end of the bargain. In June 2009, Gary paid Fanning $30,000. Gary paid this amount by giving Fanning $30,000 worth of chips at an out-of-state casino, and Fanning subsequently shared the money with Lasseter.
The charge carries a maximum possible sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. In determining the actual sentence, the court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.
Members of the public are reminded that the information only contains a charge. The defendant is presumed innocent of the charge, and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
This case is being investigated by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorney Douglas W. Gilfillan is prosecuting the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Information Office at USAGAN.Pressemails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.