Memphis City Councilmen and
DEC 4 -- Memphis, TN – David Kustoff, United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, My Harrison, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Memphis Division , and Andrew Dimond, Resident Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Memphis Resident Office, announced the unsealing of criminal complaints charging Memphis City Councilmen Rickey Peete and Edmund Ford with bribery offenses and former County Commission Candidate Joe Cooper with a money laundering offense. In addition, today search warrants were executed at the homes and offices of Ford and Peete. A search warrant was previously executed at Cooper’s home.
THE COMPLAINTS AGAINST RICKEY PEETE AND EDMUND FORD
According to the affidavit attached to the complaint against Rickey Peete, Peete was elected to the Memphis City Council as District 8, Position 2 Representative in October 1995, and he also serves as Executive Director of the Beale Street Merchants Association. Peete was previously convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. § 1951 in connection with his solicitation and receipt of a bribe during his previous tenure as a Memphis City Councilman, and he was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment.
According to the affidavit attached to the complaint against Edmund Ford, Edmund Ford was elected to the City Council in October 1999. He is the District 6 representative, and he also operates the E. H. Ford Mortuary.
According to the affidavits supporting the complaints against Peete and Ford, agents with the FBI and DEA contacted an individual (“the informant”) and advised him that he was facing federal criminal charges, and this individual agreed to cooperate with the agents. The informant told the agents that he represented clients before the Memphis City Council. According to the affidavit concerning Peete, the informant had an ongoing relationship with City Council member Rickey Peete whereby the informant periodically made cash payments for Peete’s influence. According to the affidavit concerning Ford, the informant told the agents that Ford regularly supported proposals backed by the informant. The informant also described favors he had performed for Ford, including assisting in Ford’s acquisition of a Cadillac with financing in the name of a third person, although Ford was responsible for making the payments. In addition, according to the affidavit, the informant assisted Ford in obtaining a loan to remodel his mortuary.
According to both affidavits, the informant also told the agents that he represented a client in connection with a pending proposal that would be coming before the City Council which involved approval for a real estate development and a billboard alongside Interstate 240. As described in the affidavits, the informant, while acting under the agents’ supervision and while equipped with recording devices, proceeded to make the following cash payments to Peete and Ford to secure their support for the billboard project and assistance in securing the votes of other Memphis City Council members for the project:
In addition, on October 27, 2006, the informant paid $2,000 to Ford to secure his assistance in obtaining the ultimate repeal of a moratorium on billboards, according to the affidavit concerning Ford.
The affidavit concerning Ford describes the video recordings of his receipt of the bribe payments, including the recording of the following concerning October 2 payment in Ford’s office: the informant counted $1900 on the table; as the informant counted, Ford talked about lining up the votes; the informant pushed the money across the table to Ford and asked him to be sure not to get too busy to forget to push the project; Ford took the money; and as he put in his pocket, Ford said "I'll drum up seven or make somebody walk out."
According to both affidavits, the City Council met on October 3, and the Council voted in favor of the project by a 9 to 2 vote, overturning the recommendations of the Land Use Control Board and the Office of Planning and Development (OPD) which had recommended against the proposal. Peete and Ford voted for the proposal.
According to the affidavit concerning Peete, Peete repeatedly expressed concern to the informant about law enforcement investigations. For example, during the October meeting described in the affidavit when Peete received a $5,000 payment, Peete asked the informant if “you feel comfortable with everything?” and if they had to worry about “those folks ... alphabet boys.” According to the affidavit, Peete then wrote on his hand, and when the informant indicated that he could not read the note, Peete wrote “FBI” on a sheet of paper. As alleged in the affidavit, Peete then wrote the name of the informant’s client on the billboard project on the sheet of paper and asked "is that person real cool in terms of here and now?” apparently indicating his concern that the client could be working with law enforcement. The informant assured Peete that his client knew nothing about what they were doing.
The complaints against Peete and Ford charge violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a) based on the receipt of cash bribes. Section 1951 provides in relevant part that:
The penalties for a violation of section 1951 are a maximum prison term of 20 years imprisonment, a fine of not more than $250,000 and a term of supervised release of not more than 3 years.
THE COMPLAINT AGAINST JOSEPH GLENN COOPER (“JOE COOPER”)
The affidavit attached to the complaint against Joe Cooper alleges that Cooper was an unsuccessful candidate in the May 2, 2006, Democratic primary election for Shelby County Commissioner for District 5, and he previously worked at Bud Davis Cadillac. According to the affidavit, in 1977, Cooper was sentenced to one year imprisonment for violating 18 U.S.C. §§ 2 (aiding and abetting), 371 (conspiracy) and 656 (theft, embezzlement or misapplication by bank officer or employee).
Cooper is charged in the complaint with a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(3) based on his receipt of cash and a money order as partial payment towards the purchases of automobiles by drug dealers. As described in the affidavit, these charges arose from a long-running narcotics investigation that has already resulted in indictments charging 26 defendants.1One of these defendants participated in the undercover operation resulting in the charges against Cooper.
As described in the affidavit, that defendant, Korreco Green, was arrested on July 25, 2006. 2 Green then told federal law enforcement personnel that Joe Cooper had assisted him and another drug dealer in purchasing cars, which were registered in the names of other persons. According to the affidavit, further investigation revealed that there were five cars involved: two Cadillacs purchased by Green and registered in the names of two other individuals, and three Cadillacs purchased by the other drug dealer and registered in the names of three other individuals.
The affidavit states that Green agreed to work with the investigators in documenting his relationship with Cooper and the existence of the car transactions. As described in the affidavit, over the course of the next few days, under the investigators’ supervision, Green’s telephonic and in-person communications with Cooper were recorded. The affidavit alleges that, on July 27, 2006, Green met with Cooper and paid him $3,500.00 in cash and a money order as partial payment for the amount Green and the other dealer owed Cooper for the cars. As described in the affidavit, in that meeting and in other recorded communications, Cooper made statements indicating that he understood that he was dealing with drug traffickers. The affidavit also describes Cooper’s comments indicating his concern that one of the cars he sold to the other dealer was missing, that the missing vehicle needed to be found as soon as possible. Regarding this car, the affidavit states that Cooper said, “no telling what’s going to be in that car” if its picked up.
The statute cited in the complaint against Cooper,18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(3), provides in relevant part that:
The penalties for a violation of section1956(a)(3) are a maximum prison term of 20 years, a maximum $500,000 fine, and a maximum of three years of supervised release.
These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tom Colthurst, Vivian Donelson and Larry Laurenzi, with the Office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee. The investigation of Cooper and the related investigations of drug dealers were conducted by the Memphis Resident Office of the DEA in partnership with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. The investigations of Peete and Ford were conducted by the FBI’s Memphis Division , with assistance from the DEA and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.
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Note: Charges brought against a person through a complaint are accusations only. That person is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
1. See prior press releases: Complaint Unsealed in Drug Conspiracy Case Charging Eight Defendants, Including a Shelby County Deputy ( October 25, 2005); Complaint Filed Against Deputy Jailer Charging That She Stored Cocaine at Her Residence (December 6, 2005); Superseding Indictment Unsealed after Arrests in Cocaine and Marijuana Conspiracy Case ( August 4, 2006 ) .