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Charlotte, NC, mayor facing corruption charges

Published: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 1:32 p.m. CDT

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Less than six months on the job, the mayor of Charlotte was arrested and accused Wednesday of accepting more than $48,000 in bribes from FBI agents posing as real estate developers who wanted to do business with North Carolina's largest city.

Mayor Patrick Cannon, a 47-year-old Democrat, faces theft and bribery charges, U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins said. Cannon was accused of soliciting and accepting more than $48,000 in cash, airline tickets, a hotel room and the use of a luxury apartment as bribes.

If convicted on all the charges, he faces 20 years in prison and more than $1 million in fines.

Cannon, a radio host and the owner of a parking management company, was elected mayor in November, replacing Anthony Foxx, who was named Transportation Secretary by President Barack Obama.

Telephone messages left for Cannon were not immediately returned Wednesday afternoon.

FBI agents posing as commercial real estate developers paid Cannon on five separate occasions between January 2013 and February 2014, according to the complaint. Cannon accepted cash in exchange for access to city officials responsible for planning, zoning and permitting.

On the last occasion, Cannon was accused of accepting $20,000 in cash in the mayor's office, the complaint said.

The investigation began in August 2010, when Cannon still held an at-large seat on the Charlotte City Council.

Cannon was first elected to City Council in 1993. He is also longtime radio show host who discusses local and national politics. In November, he defeated Republican challenger Edwin Peacock.

Cannon was also accused of accepting $12,500 from an undercover agent to help him develop a feminine hygiene product called "Hers" to be marketed and sold in the United States. In exchange, Cannon offered to help the undercover agent — posing as a business manager for a venture capital company — get the necessary permits to open a nightclub.

During the meeting, an undercover agent told Cannon: "You know, again whatever you can do to get our application moved up towards the top, uh, business license and things like that, that we need."

According to the complaint, Cannon responded: "Yeah, not a problem."

Cannon later had a discussion with the undercover agent, apparently attempting to clarify to the mayor that the money was strictly seed money for the "Hers" product and not payment for his help in opening the nightclub. Cannon ended the conversation by saying he looked good "in an orange necktie, but not an orange suit," according to the complaint.

When the agent set up two later meetings to discuss the money and give Cannon an opportunity to return it, Cannon failed to show up, the complaint said.

During his campaign, Cannon promoted plans to create jobs in a city of 760,000 people that has become one of the nation's leading banking and energy centers.

Big banks helped drive Charlotte's explosive growth over the past two decades. The city is home to Bank of America Corp., one of the nation's largest banks by assets.

But the city's financial institutions were hurt in the nation's banking meltdown. Since 2008, Charlotte has lost thousands of good-paying financial services jobs.

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