Mayor Patrick Cannon was getting ready to close the deal with the big-time developer, but was reluctant to take a briefcase containing $20,000 while sitting in his city office.
“I just got to be conscious about that kind of stuff here, you know,” Cannon told the fictitious developer, who was, in fact, an undercover FBI agent.
Yet when the “developer” left, the briefcase, given to Cannon in exchange for his offer to pull strings with important city officials, stayed behind, according to court documents.
Cannon was arrested Wednesday and accused of accepting more than $48,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as businessmen who wanted to do work with North Carolina’s largest city. He resigned Wednesday evening, less than six months after taking office.
It was a stunning fall for the 47-year-old Democrat who had risen from the city’s public housing projects to become a successful businessman and politician.
According to the criminal complaint, Cannon accepted more than $48,000 in cash, airline tickets, a hotel room and the use of a luxury apartment as bribes and solicited more than $1 million more. If convicted on all charges, Cannon faces up to 50 years in prison and more than $1 million in fines.
While working with the undercover agents, Cannon touted his close relationship with Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and a trip to the White House to meet with President Barack Obama and other administration officials, the complaint said.
At one point, an undercover agent said to Cannon: “You’re operating at quite a level, Patrick.”
Cannon, a longtime radio show host and the founder of E-Z Parking, a parking management company, was elected mayor in November, replacing Anthony Foxx, who was named Transportation Secretary by Obama.
Cannon had an initial court appearance Wednesday and was released on $25,000 unsecured bond. He did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
FBI agents posing as commercial real estate developers paid Cannon on five separate occasions between January 2013 and February 2014, according to the complaint. The mayor accepted cash in exchange for access to city officials responsible for planning, zoning and permitting, the complaint said.