Gwinnett commissioner, son plead guilty to bribery charges

Updated:

Shirley Lasseter
GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. —

Channel 2 Action News has learned Gwinnett County Commissioner Shirley Fanning Lasseter, her son and a third man have pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges.

According to prosecutors, the incident stems from a land purchase off Boggs Road in Gwinnett County.

“These defendants used the office of a County Commissioner to line their pockets by taking payoffs from individuals whom they believed to be drug traffickers.  These defendants broke the public trust and the law.  We will continue to aggressively pursue corrupt public officials and those who conspire with them,” U.S. Attorney Sally Yates said in a news conference Thursday.

Prosecutors told Channel 2's Kerry Kavanaugh that Lasseter and her son, John Fanning, were involved a plan where Lasseter and Fanning would accept bribes from a businessman for them to change zoning on a piece of property that they wanted to build a pawn shop on.

The investigation showed the pawn shop would be used to as a front to launder money and distribute narcotics.

Investigators said Lasseter received $36,500 in bribes from an undercover FBI agent in exchange for her official action on the proposed development.

Fanning was to receive an ownership stake in the business once everything was settled.

A third man, Carl Cain, was paid $10,000 for arranging Lasseter and Fanning’s involvement in the scheme.

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Cain also owned a trucking company, which prosecutors told Kavanaugh he was going to use to help transport laundered money and narcotics with out of the pawn shop.  

“Citizens of this district has the right to expect that officials are not going to use their positions to line their pockets with payoffs from developers and certainly not from drug dealers,” Yates said.

Lasseter, a longtime Gwinnett County resident, was first elected to the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners in November 2008. Prior to that role, she was mayor of Duluth for 14 years.

She pleaded guilty Thursday to bribery charges in federal court. Lasseter could receive a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Fanning is a member of the Gwinnett County Zoning Appeals Board, a position with a one-year term that began in February 2011 after he was appointed by his mother. 

Fanning and Cain have been charged with participating in the bribery scheme and with drug trafficking. They also pleaded guilty to those charges and could receive a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on the bribery count.  Fanning and Cain both face a mandatory minimum sentence of five years on the drug trafficking count, which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years and a fine of up to $5,000,000. 

Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 6.

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