Entrepreneur Testifies Bribery Scheme Was Bickers’ Idea | National policy

ATLANTA (AP) — A former City of Atlanta entrepreneur testified that a political operative who worked at City Hall contacted him after his business was battered by the Great Recession to talk about a contract. sidewalk – and a bribe.

Mitzi Bickers, who helped former mayor Kasim Reed win the election and later worked as director of social services, faces corruption charges. His federal trialnow in its second week, is the first of a long investigation into corruption at City Hall under Reed’s administration.

Prosecutors allege Bickers used his influence to direct approximately $17 million in municipal works to contractors Elvin “ER” Mitchell Jr. and Charles P. Richards Jr. in return for approximately $2 million in kickbacks. wine. Both men pleaded guilty in 2017 to conspiracy to pay bribes, were sentenced to prison and are government witnesses against Bickers.

Mitchell spoke on Wednesday and said the idea for the “pay to play” program came from Bickers, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. In 2009, before she even became the city’s director of social services, Mitchell said Bickers approached her about the annual sidewalk contract and asked her for $100,000.

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“What did your business need to stay afloat? Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Kitchens asked Mitchell on Wednesday.

“Projects,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said he didn’t have the money for the bribe but needed the job. He also lacked the business confidence required to bid. Richards had more experience working concrete and Mitchell called him to be the main contractor and asked him to help with the money, he testified.

Richards expressed discomfort, but sent a check to Mitchell, who drove to Bickers’ home with a laptop bag filled with $100,000 in cash, Mitchell said.

“Ms. Bickers indicated that she preferred cash to avoid the IRS,” Mitchell said.

Richards’ offer, which arrived in 2009, before the period covered by the charges against Bickers, was the highest. But Mitchell and Richards won about 20% of the contract work, which was worth millions.

“Who did you bribe? The kitchens asked.

“Mitzi Bickers,” Mitchell replied, according to the newspaper. When asked how many times, Mitchell replied, “Countless.”

From the start of the trial, Bickers’ lawyers, Drew Findling and Marissa Goldberg, portrayed Mitchell as untrustworthy. They should question his credibility, past business practices and legal action, the newspaper reported.

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