Burfoot corruption trial enters its third week

13News Now Jemie Lee has the story

NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- Monday marks the start of the the third week of the Anthony Burfoot federal corruption trial.

Arney is the prosecution's last key witness in Burfoot’s corruption trial. Arney admitted he bribed Burfoot in exchange for city council votes when Burfoot was vice mayor. The allegations were first brought up during the Bank of Commonwealth trial a few years back. Arney pleaded guilty to fraud in that case and was sentenced to 27 months in prison. He was released after 24 months for good behavior.

Arney testified that he and Burfoot entered into a "I scratch your back, you scratch my back" relationship. It all started back in 2009 when Arney says he bribed Burfoot so that he could open a strip club in downtown Norfolk.

Arney testified that Tammy Sansbury-- the mother of two of Burfoot's children, was interested in buying a condominium that Arney built. But Sansbury needed $25,000 to pay off some debt so that she could qualify for the loan. Arney said he agreed to give her the money if Burfoot voted in favor of his strip club. Arney says they shook on it, but that Burfoot later went back on his promise when he told the newspaper he wouldn't support the strip club. Arney was furious and the strip club never came to fruition.  

The defense spent a lot of time focusing on the Bank of the Commonwealth case in which Tommy Arney pleaded guilty to fraud. At times Arney got impatient and irritated at the questions. At one point he threw up his arms and said, “I don't know why you keep asking me the same questions. I thought I was here to testify that I gave money to Tammy Sansbury.”

Arney is just one of three other developers who already testified against Burfoot. Curtis and Dwight Etheridge and Ronnie Boone Sr. all stated that they bribed Burfoot with money and lavish gifts in exchange for votes.

Several other witnesses took the stand after Tommy Arney. A former loan processor at the Bank of the Commonwealth testified that Arney told her he was confident his strip club would come to fruition because he “knew people.”

Prosecutors say they have two more witnesses before they rest their case—they say they should wrap up by noon Tuesday. Defense Attorney Andrew Sacks will then present his case—he says he has a long list of witnesses.

Last week, we heard from developer Ronald Boone Senior, a key witness for the prosecution. He says he gave Burfoot thousands of dollars in cash, gifts and access to his Outer Banks beach house. In exchange, he says Burfoot always voted in his favor on city council. Burfoot's attorney says the accusations are false.

As for Boone, back in September he pleaded guilty in federal court to bank fraud and bribing Burfoot.

Burfoot is accused of receiving at least $475,000 in bribes and kickbacks between 2005 and 2011. Prior to being the city treasurer, Burfoot served as Norfolk's vice mayor and was also a city councilman.

On January 8, 2016, Burfoot was arrested and escorted to the Norfolk Federal Courthouse in downtown Norfolk. A 32-page indictment listed the charges against Burfoot, including perjury and wire fraud. Investigators say he used his official position to solicit gifts and payments.

Prosecutors say Burfoot received nearly half a million dollars in kickbacks and bribes during his time on the City Council. Prosecutors argue Burfoot took bribes from the now non-existent company, Tivest Development and Construction.

In 2015, the Justice Department issued subpoenas into the Burfoot office’s dealings with the defunct development company. Tivest’s former vice president, Recardo Lewis, was sentenced in 2013 to 50 months in prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud as part of the $71 million Bank of the Commonwealth fraud trial.

The charges also stem from Burfoot’s relationship with former Tivest president, Dwight Etheridge, who was sentenced to more than four years in prison on fraud-related charges. Etheridge was found guilty after a lengthy, 10-week jury trial on May 24, 2013.

Burfoot’s name came up during that trial, when another developer, Tommy Arney, testified that then-Vice Mayor Burfoot pledged city council votes to approved a downtown strip club.

Burfoot denied that allegation back then, telling 13News Now, “I’ve never had a conversation with Mr. Arney as it relates to that.”

According to a federal indictment, between March 2004 and December 2014, Ronald Boone, Anthony Burfoot and other individuals conspired with each other to scheme and defraud the citizens of Norfolk through bribery.

The indictment also states that Boone secretly provided cash, gifts, and other things of value to Anthony Burfoot in exchange for Burfoot to perform specific official actions and other official actions on an as-needed basis.

Burfoot's own trial began on Monday, November 7, and is expected to last several weeks. Burfoot’s attorney said at a motions hearing last month that he has more witnesses than normal in his defense.

Former developer Dwight Etheridge, who is currently serving a four-year prison sentence, testified against Burfoot, claiming he received hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash over the course of several years from Burfoot. 

Meanwhile, petition to recall Burfoot has been certified, but The Virginian-Pilot reports a recall trial has been delayed until after the criminal trial is complete.

If Burfoot is convicted of all charges, he could face up to 100 years in prison, although it is likely he would receive a lesser sentence.

 


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