Federal prosecutors call JT Burnette’s cousin as first witness
Today is the second day of the trial of John “JT” Burnette, indicted under a payment scheme for playing with former City Commissioner Scott Maddox, at the US courthouse in Tallahassee.
Prosecutors call first witness, cousin of JT Burnette | 10:30
Federal prosecutors called their first witness this morning: Melissa Oglesby, owner of construction company KaiserKane and close cousin of JT Burnette.
Oglesby, testifying under an immunity deal with prosecutors, told U.S. Assistant Prosecutor Rosaleen O’Gara that she bought a small business in Burnette in the early 2000s and changed her name to KaiserKane.
Burnette, who sold her the business for $ 5,000, served as a mentor, helping her grow into a business with more than $ 20 million in annual sales, she said.
She said KaiserKane often loaned Burnette money, sometimes in installments of $ 1 million or more.
“There were times it was three to four times a week or a month,” Oglesby said.
She said Burnette arranged a meeting in late 2013 with her and Paige Carter-Smith to determine whether Governance Services, a consultancy firm owned by Carter-Smith but secretly controlled by Maddox, could help KaiserKane secure lucrative government contracts. KaiserKane then hired Governance Services, paying a retainer of $ 10,000.
“I thought they were like a lobbying company,” Oglesby said. “I knew it was Paige Carter-Smith and Scott Maddox.”
In February 2014, Oglesby reported receiving an invoice for $ 100,000 from Governance Services.
“I had no idea what the money was for,” Oglesby told jurors.
Oglesby then emailed company officials and accountants about the invoice.
“Do NOT pay for this,” she said in the March 2014 email. “I’ll talk to JT about it.”
She said Burnette later gave her an explanation for the bill.
“He said it had something to do with Scott Maddox and the DoubleTree,” Oglesby said.
KaiserKane finally footed the bill. Federal prosecutors said the money was in fact a bribe from Burnette to Maddox in return for abstaining from a vote on a downtown hotel project that would rival Burnette’s own plans .
Burnette owned the Duval Hotel at the time and was considering purchasing the DoubleTree Hotel.
In March 2014, Oglesby said that during the months that Burnette sought to shut down the downtown hotel on Park Avenue, she had wired him at least $ 4 million through KaiserKane on several occasions.
She said she often didn’t expect to be paid back, even though it kept her own business money running out. When asked by O’Gara why she approved the transfers, she said she was nervous approaching Burnette about the loans.
“I trusted JT. He was my mentor. He was my cousin, ”Oglesby said. “It was not easy to argue with him. Eventually, it was going to happen. He would convince me.
JT Burnette corruption trial | Original story:
The second day of the trial of John “JT” Burnette, indicted under a payment scheme for playing with former city commissioner Scott Maddox, begins today at the US courthouse in Tallahassee.
The government will begin calling its first witnesses this morning. The two sides have agreed to share the names of witnesses they plan to call the next day, but this information has not been shared publicly.
During the jury selection on Monday, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle asked a panel of would-be jurors if they knew dozens of prominent politicians and public officials, businessmen, lobbyists and consultants. Hinkle said these people could be called as witnesses or they could just be in the case.
Five undercover FBI agents who investigated Burnette, Maddox and their co-defendant Paige Carter-Smith, a close friend of Maddox, have been named. The agents impersonated Mike Miller, owner of Southern Pines Development, an FBI front company, and its investors, Mike Sweets, Brian Butler, Ravi Gupta and Jack DeWitt.
Other people mentioned included Gary Yordon, a former Maddox partner who represented the McKibbon Hotel Group, who wanted to build a downtown hotel that Maddox and Burnette sought to blockade; Wes Townsend, a McKibbon official; Chad Kittrell of Hunter and Harp Holdings and former Burnette business partner; Eddie Bass of Moore Bass Consulting, a leading civil engineering firm; Ed Murray, Founder of TALCOR Commercial Real Estate; and former IBM executive Steve Evans.
Government officials appointed include former city commissioners Gil Ziffer and Nancy Miller, former city managers Anita Favors and Rick Fernandez, former city attorneys Jim English and Lew Shelley, former CRA executive director Roxanne Manning and former Jared Moskowitz director of the Florida Emergency Division. Management.
Burnette is accused of organizing $ 40,000 in bribes from Southern Pines to Governance Services, a consulting firm owned by Carter-Smith but secretly controlled by Maddox. He is also accused of paying Maddox a $ 100,000 bribe in exchange for his abstention in a vote in 2014 that ended in a 2-2 tie and killed the McKibbon Project.
Maddox, Carter-Smith and Burnette were indicted by a federal grand jury after a secret FBI investigation, Operation Capital Currency, which began in 2015.
Check back to Tallahassee.com for trial updates.
Contact Jeff Burlew at [email protected] or follow @JeffBurlew on Twitter.
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