GUILTY! Sundquist Friend John Stamps Admits to Federal Charges - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

NewsChannel 5 Investigates: Friends in High Places

GUILTY! Sundquist Friend John Stamps Admits to Federal Charges

(Story created: 5/23/05)

Prosecutors are now waiting to see where a close friend of former Gov. Don Sundquist might lead them next. This comes after John Stamps pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges.

It all stems from our Friends in High Places investigation of insider state contracts.

"It's been a tough three years," Stamps said after entering the guilty plea. "This investigation has been going on for three years, and it's a long time to be under so much pressure."

For years, Stamps had rubbed elbows with Sundquist, cashing in on his lifelong friendship to become a Capitol Hill lobbyist.

But Stamps stood alone as he pleaded guilty to four counts of tax evasion and one count of making false statements to secure a federally funded state contract.

Afterwards, he apologized to those he had hurt.

"I accept responsibility for this unfortunate episode," Stamps said, his voice cracking. "I need to start the process of rebuilding my life."

His plea comes almost a year after Sundquist appointee Joanna Ediger was convicted for helping Stamps to rig a state contract for this Chattanooga company, Workforce Strategists.

That contract was worth almost $2 million.

U.S. Attorney Jim Vines called it an example of can happen when folks abuse the public trust for private greed. "From our standpoint, this is a very significant plea in this ongoing investigation."

Stamps' plea does not specifically require his cooperation in the on-going investigation of contracts awarded by the Sundquist administration.

But prosecutors say it would be a great way to help himself.

 "We've still got several months before the August sentencing," Vines said, "and cooperation is still possible between now and then."

Stamps faces up to five years in federal prison on each of the five charges, but he could get his sentence reduced if he gets credit for substantial cooperation. Sentencing is set for Aug. 22nd.

Another Sundquist friend, Al Ganier, is awaiting trial for allegedly obstructing the contracts investigation, but prosecutors won't say whether Stamps will be a witness against him or anyone else.

 "Could this lead to Governor Sundquist?" NewsChannel 5's chief investigative reporter Phil Williams asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Eli Richardson.

"In this case," Richardson replied, "the investigation will lead where the investigation takes us.... That's where we continue to go."

Sundquist has denied any wrongdoing.

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