People who have led honest, productive lives can get caught up in white collar crimes. Sometimes, the potential for seemingly-easy money is hard to resist. Financial stresses can also lead people to make bad decisions. Some convince themselves that no one is really hurt by their actions.
Here in Charlotte, North Carolina, many people have watched with shock and dismay as now-former Mayor Patrick Cannon was accused of taking bribes and sentenced to nearly four years behind bars. According to prosecutors, Cannon, who resigned when he was arrested in March, accepted bribes from undercover federal agents whom he thought were developers asking him to expedite permits and zoning approvals for their projects. They say the bribes, in addition to almost $50,000 in cash, included a hotel room, airline tickets and access to a luxury apartment.
Prosecutors say that Cannon accepted the bribes starting in January 2013, when he was still on the city council and during his short-lived stint as mayor. Voters elected him to that spot in November of last year.
The former mayor, who pleaded guilty this summer to honest services wire fraud, was contrite at his sentencing this month. He told the judge that he had failed as a "servant leader," citizen, husband and father. His attorney says that his client is "struggling to understand" his own actions.
The judge, however, described these actions as "raw greed" that "seriously tarnished the city's image." Both the judge and federal prosecutor spoke of the necessity to "send a message" that this kind of activity by a public servant will not be tolerated.
Cannon's sentence of 44 months behind bars and a $10,000 fine could have been much worse -- up to two decades and $250,000. However, his attorneys asked for leniency based on his long record of public service. They also noted how much Cannon overcame, pulling himself up from his inner-city roots to get an education and go on to help others in need.
Although we often hear complaints about Wall Street bankers and others getting away with white collar crimes such as fraud and embezzlement, the truth is that such crimes can carry stiff penalties. People can lose years of their freedom and be required to pay significant fines. That's why it's essential to have an experienced defense team on your side that can work to help minimize the damage to your life.
Source: The State, "Former NC mayor sentenced for taking bribes" Mitch Weiss, Associated Press, Oct. 14, 2014