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Charlotte mayor accused of bribery, extortion

By Greg Botelho, CNN
March 28, 2014 -- Updated 0205 GMT (1005 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: He resigns, saying such an action is in the best interest of the city
  • FBI agents arrest Charlotte Mayor Patrick D. Cannon on corruption charges
  • He allegedly took over $48,000 in cash and more between 2013 and 2014
  • The mayor's office declines comment

(CNN) -- FBI agents on Wednesday arrested the mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, for allegedly taking tens of thousands of dollars worth of bribes "in exchange for the use of his official position," the U.S. attorney's office said.

Patrick D. Cannon, 47, faces federal charges of theft and bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, honest services wire fraud and extortion under color of official right, according to a press release from U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins of western North Carolina.

The Charlotte mayor's office declined a CNN request for comment. However, CNN obtained a copy of Cannon's resignation letter, sent to City of Charlotte Manager Ron Carlee and City Attorney Bob Hagemann.

"I hereby give notice of my resignation from the position of the Mayor of the City of Charlotte, effective immediately. In light of the charges that have been brought against me, it is my judgment that the pendency of these charges will create too much of a distraction for the business of the City to go forward smoothly and without interruption," Cannon wrote in the letter.

A reformer who led New Orleans through its worst disaster in modern history, Ray Nagin was convicted of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and other favors from businessmen looking for a break from his administration. He was convicted of 20 of the 21 corruption-related counts against him and faces up to 20 years in prison. Prosecutors said Nagin, 57, was at the center of a kickback scheme in which he received checks, cash, wire transfers, personal services and free travel from businessmen seeking contracts and favorable treatment from his city. A reformer who led New Orleans through its worst disaster in modern history, Ray Nagin was convicted of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and other favors from businessmen looking for a break from his administration. He was convicted of 20 of the 21 corruption-related counts against him and faces up to 20 years in prison. Prosecutors said Nagin, 57, was at the center of a kickback scheme in which he received checks, cash, wire transfers, personal services and free travel from businessmen seeking contracts and favorable treatment from his city.
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"I regret that I have to take this action, but I believe that it is in the best interest of the City for me to do so."

First elected to City Council in 1993 -- when he was 26 and two years removed from graduating from North Carolina A&T State University -- the Democrat served through 2005, including the last four years as mayor pro tem.

Cannon, the president of a private parking business, spent four years out of office until being elected to City Council again in 2009. Between 2010 and 2013, he served as both a council member and mayor pro tem until his election as mayor in November 2013.

Federal authorities launched their corruption investigation in August 2010, using FBI agents who posed as commercial real estate developers and investors looking to do business in the North Carolina city, Tompkins' office said.

Investigators documented five separate occasions between January 2013 and February 2014 in which Cannon allegedly took more than $48,000 in cash, airline tickets, a hotel room and a luxury apartment from the undercover agents.

In the last instance, authorities say Cannon got $20,000 in cash in the mayor's office.

He allegedly accepted the largesse in exchange for returning the favor using his powers as a City Council member, mayor pro tem and, eventually, mayor.

Cannon appeared in court Wednesday and was released on bond, the U.S. attorney's office reported.

If convicted on all charges, he could be sentenced to as many as 50 years in federal prison and pay as much as $1.5 million in fines, officials said.

Cannon succeeded then-Mayor Anthony Foxx, who in July 2013 was sworn in as U.S. Transportation Secretary.

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CNN's Deanna Hackney contributed to this report.

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