ATLANTA - Charles P. Richards Jr. entered a guilty plea Thursday in court related to the Atlanta City Hall bribery probe.
Richards faces up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and full restitution for conspiring to commit bribery in order to obtain city of Atlanta contracts.
From 2010 to August 2015, Richards admitted to paying at least $185,000 in bribes, which federal prosecutors said produced millions of dollars in city of Atlanta contracts.
Richards’ attorney said the idea of the bribery scheme originated from E.R. Mitchell, who plead guilty last month.
Together, they admit they paid about $1.2 million in the long-running cash-for-contracts scheme at city hall. It is still unknown who received the bribes.
“The bribe payments were referred to as ‘upfront money,’ part of the process that these individuals followed to secure lucrative city contracts,” said US Attorney John Horn. “And significantly during that same five-year period, Richards’ companies received city of Atlanta contracts worth millions of dollars.”
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Richards’ attorney described him as a good man who feared he would lose his family business after the 2009 recession. That, she said, is when the offer came.
“He did something, with regard to that, that was wrong and that was when his partner came to him and asked him to pay to play. He said yes and that was wrong and he regrets that and he will regret that for the rest of his life,” said defense attorney Lynne Borsuk.
Horn said Richards' plea adds another layer of understanding about the bribery scheme.
"It also highlights this office's commitment to pursuing the investigation and following the evidence wherever it leads us," he said.
Both Richards and Mitchell promised to help federal prosecutors.
"He is cooperating with authorities and he will continue to do so," Borsuk said.
Richards is scheduled to be sentenced late April, but the big question still remains: Who got the money and passed it to people who could influence city contracts?
Channel 2 Action News and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution broke the story last week that prosecutors have subpoenaed records of Mitzi Bickers, a one-time partner of E.R. Mitchell, a one-time city employee and a well-known political advisor to Mayor Kasim Reed. Bickers has ducked our questions.
Thursday, there was no mention of Bickers or anyone else.
"The matter's still pending so I can't comment any further," Horn said.
Reed said he has not been questioned by the FBI and that the city has been cooperating with the federal investigation for months.
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