Leader Blues

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TOP STORY >> FBI, ATF arrest Cabot man

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

A Cabot man was arrested in Bangkok, Thailand, last week on federal charges involving bookmaking, distribution of illegal drugs and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with an alleged kickback scheme involving a North Little Rock alderman and a contractor.

George Wylie Thompson, 64, lived in the modest Oak Meadows subdivision in the central part of Cabot when police received a courtesy call from the Federal Bureau of Investigation last spring, informing them that they were working in Cabot.

Thompson also is charged with one count as a felon in possession of 147 firearms, one count as a felon in possession of 88 sets of ammunition (more than 80,000 rounds, mostly .22) and one count of aiding and abetting in the commission of marriage fraud to avoid immigration laws.

The indictment, handed down by a grand jury in early October, was sealed until Thompson was apprehended.

Whether any of Thompson’s alleged crimes were committed in Cabot is unclear.

In a press release Monday, Jane W. Duke, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, said the investigation is ongoing and more arrests are expected in the public corruption part of the case.

Since news broke about the case, Ward 3 Alderman Cary Gaines has been identified as the North Little Rock alderman under investigation. The contractor has not been identified.

Gaines was first elected to the North Little Rock City Council in 1992 and served a four-year term. He was part of a scandal involving the Arkansas Sheriffs Association, where he worked during that first term on the council and was not re-elected until 2007.

A North Little Rock alderman, who asked not to be identified said he recalls that after Gaines got back on the council he started pushing to replace concrete contractor Tom Brooks, but no change was made.

The alderman said he had known for about a month that the FBI was investigating a council member but didn’t know for certain Gaines was that council member until this week.

Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Browne of the FBI said in the news release, “The allegations of public corruption contained in this indictment are among the most serious, and fall within the FBI’s No. 1 criminal investigative priority.”

According to information contained in the 26-page indictment that covers Thompson’s alleged illegal activities, starting in October 2008 with the bookmaking charges and ending May 12 when the guns, ammunition and illegal silencers were confiscated, Thompson was convicted previously on two separate charges of intent to sell drugs.

Also contained in the document are recorded conversations between Thompson, the alderman now identified as Gaines and the contractor (called Vendor B in the indictment) who wanted to work for North Little Rock.

Those conversations indicated that Gaines and the contractor were in debt to Thompson and intended to get the money to pay those debts from North Little Rock. What is not clear from the indictment is who was wearing the wire.

The indictment alleges: “Alderman A (Gaines) agreed to attempt to facilitate the awarding of North Little Rock contracts to Thompson’s chosen vendor, Vendor B, so that Alderman A and Vendor B could work off their debts to Thompson. In return, Vendor B agreed to kick back to both Thompson and Alderman A a portion of the proceeds from that contract.

“Initially, the scheme involved awarding a North Little Rock city concrete contract to Vendor B. However, when they experienced delays in the bidding process for the concrete contract, the object of the scheme turned to awarding a North Little Rock city landscaping project to Vendor B.

The same kickback arrangement, whereby Vendor B would pay Alderman A and Thompson a portion of the proceeds, applied to the landscaping project,” the indictment said.

According to information provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the maximum statutory penalty for being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition is not more than 10 years imprisonment, not more than a $250,000 fine, or both, and not more than three years of supervised release.

The maximum statutory penalty for possessing illegal silencers is not more than 10 years imprisonment, not more than a $10,000 fine, or both, and not more than three years of supervised release.

The maximum statutory penalties for each offense of operating an illegal gambling business, conspiring to do the same, and aiding and abetting in the commission of marriage fraud are not more than five years imprisonment, not more than a $250,000 fine, or both, and not more than three years of supervised release for each offense.

The maximum statutory penalty for conspiring to commit wire fraud is not more than 20 years imprisonment, not more than a $250,000 fine, or both, and not more than three years of supervised release.

The maximum penalties for possessing with intent to deliver more than 500 grams of cocaine and conspiring to do the same is not less than five years and not more than 40 years imprisonment, a fine of not more than $2 million, and not more than five years of supervised release for each offense.

The maximum penalty for using a communication device in a drug crime is not more than four years, not more than a $250,000 fine, and not more than one year of supervised release.

The case was also investigated by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura G. Hoey.