Gwinnett developer Mark Gary, 39, of Duluth, pleaded guilty Monday (Oct. 1) in federal district court in Atlanta to a charge of bribing then Gwinnett County Commissioner Shirley Lasseter in 2009 to secure approval of a proposed waste transfer station in which he held a personal stake.
Gary's sentencing hearing was scheduled for Jan. 3 before U.S. District Judge Charles A. Pannell Jr.
“Today’s guilty plea shows that paying off a public official is a losing bet,” said U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates in a press release issued by her office. “Gwinnett County’s approval of competing real estate developments is not a game in which votes are for sale to the highest bidder. We will continue to aggressively pursue business people who corrupt the system by bribing public officials.”
Here is a timeline of events in the Gary case, according to Yates, court documents, information presented in court, and the press release:
- In or about October 2008, Gary sought to develop a $4-million solid waste transfer station in Gwinnett County, according to Yates, court documents and information presented in court. Gary submitted an application to obtain county approvals and permits, which would require approval by the Gwinnett Commission. (A solid waste transfer station serves as a way station in the trash collection process, consolidating trash from haulers for shipment to more distant landfills.)
- 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. Given her public position and to avoid any scrutiny, 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 by giving him $30,000 worth of chips at an out-of-state casino.
- Gary was charged on Sept. 5, 2012, with corruptly agreeing to pay a bribe to Lasseter and Fanning.
Fanning and Lasseter have not been charged in the Gary case.
Gary could receive a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. In determining the actual sentence, the court will consider federal sentencing guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.
Lasseter, 64, of Duluth was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison without parole by Judge Pannell in the same courtroom Sept. 5 for accepting bribes in another case. She had pleaded guilty May 31 to accepting $36,500 in bribes during 2011 from an FBI agent posing as a South Florida real estate developer to support a proposed development in her district.
Lasseter, who represented Duluth, Suwanee and Sugar Hill, resigned from her District 1 commission seat May 31.
Fanning, 34, of Dacula was sentenced to 57 months in prison without parole Sept. 18 for bribery and drug trafficking. Carl “Skip" Cain, 66, of Flowery Branch also received a sentence of 57 months without parole Sept. 18 on the same charges. Fanning and Cain had pleaded guilty May 31 to participating in the scheme to sell Lasseter’s vote and to trafficking drugs.