NewsChannel 5 Investigates: Capitol Hill Corruption
FBI Sting Nabs Five Lawmakers, Two 'Bag Men'
(Story created: 5/26/05)
Some of Tennessee's most powerful political figures are facing federal charges. The were arrested as a result of Operation Tennessee Waltz. It all stems from a case that includes undercover agents, bribery and a company that was just made up.
Seven people are facing federal bribery and extortion charges:
Sen. Ward Crutchfield, D-Chattanooga
Sen. John Ford, D-Memphis
Sen. Kathryn Bowers, D-Memphis
Rep. Chris Newton, R-Cleveland
Former Sen. Roscoe Dixon, D-Memphis
Two others -- so-called "bag men" -- are also facing charges.
The lawmakers were taken into custody early Thursday around Capitol Hill as they prepared for another day of doing the public's business.
Instead, they were hauled away in handcuffs accused of violating the public trust.
"These indictments are the result of an undercover operation -- codenamed Tennessee Waltz, which is roughly a 2-year investigation," said U.S. Attorney Terrell Harrison of Memphis.
Authorities say undercover FBI agents targeted Tennessee' Capitol Hill, using a front company that wanted to get a law passed.
Agents say the five took the bait -- sometimes accepting payoffs through two so-called "bag men," Barry Myers and Charles Love.
"E-Cycle Management Inc. was an undercover business operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to respond to allegations of corruption by elected officials," Harris added.
In Ford's case, the indictments claim he accepted $55,000 -- at one point telling the undercover agent, "You are talking to the guy who makes the deals."
"Sen. Ford is also charged with three counts of attempting to intimidate three witnesses," Harris added.
Crutchfield, a powerful Democratic figure, is accused of extorting $12.000 -- money passed from Love to Crutchfield's secretary.
In one case, Crutchfield supposedly told undercover agents, "We will do whatever you want us to do."
Roscoe Dixon who recently gave up his Senate position pocketed $9,500, according to the indictment, after telling operatives "work through Barry, keep Barry happy" -- referring to the "bag man."
Kathryn Bowers, who heads the legislature's TennCare committee, allegedly pocketed $11,500 with Myers' help -- supposedly telling agents, "Just tell me what you want me to do."
Chris Newton, the only Republican in the bunch, is accused of accepting $4,500 through Love, after assuring agents that Love was taking care of him.
"Government is not for sale," Harris added.
Authorities say they hope the dramatic events of this day leave a lasting impression on Tennessee public officials.
"We hope it will bring some of the public trust back to the state of Tennessee," said Tennessee Bureau of Investigation director Mark Gwyn.
Authorities aren't saying exactly what prompted the undercover investigation.
But what's clear is that these individuals face serious time, if convicted. The extortion charge alone carries a potential 20-year prison sentence.
Authorities aren't saying if other indictments could follow, but they are not precluding the possibility that other folks could end up being implicated.