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Developer pleads guilty to federal bribery charges

A file artist sketch of Mark Gary and attorney Paul Kish in federal court.

A file artist sketch of Mark Gary and attorney Paul Kish in federal court.

ATLANTA — Gwinnett County developer and former planning commissioner Mark Gary pleaded guilty Monday to federal bribery charges, the latest phase in a corruption investigation that began with the indictment of former Gwinnett Commissioner Shirley Lasseter.

Gary, 39, of Duluth, pleaded guilty in front of United States District Judge Charles Pannell Jr. Sentencing was scheduled for Jan. 3 in front of the same judge.

“Mark Gary’s been trying to do the best he can to help the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office clean up corruption in Gwinnett County,” Gary’s attorney Paul Kish said. “He wants a level playing field because he’s a really good developer, and wants to go back to being a good developer.”

Gary could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

“Today’s guilty plea shows that paying off a public official is a losing bet,” U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in a statement. “Gwinnett County’s approval of competing real estate developments is not a game in which votes are for sale to the highest bidder. We will continue to aggressively pursue business people who corrupt the system by bribing public officials.”

During the hearing, Gary said Lasseter told him he needed to pay her $30,000, and he initially declined until Lasseter said she would vote against a controversial $4 million solid waste transfer station in which Gary had a personal ownership interest. The station would serve as a way station in the trash collection process, consolidating trash from haulers for shipment to more distant landfills.

“I made a bad decision, a wrong decision,” Gary said. “I tried to get out of it as fast as I could, but the bell had been rung.”

Gary was charged with bribery Sept. 5 for his alleged role in offering payment to Lasseter and her son, John Fanning. Federal prosecutors believe Gary gave $30,000 in gambling chips to Fanning at an out-of-state casino for votes in favor of the waste transfer station.

“He was pressured to make a payment, and he did,” Kish said. “He made a bad mistake. Young people sometimes make mistakes. But ever since that, he’s done what he could to help the government.”

Lasseter, who reportedly provided information and secret recordings that helped federal authorities charge Gary, voted for the waste station near Dacula in 2009. Prior to that vote, Gary discussed paying Lasseter and her son as much as $100,000 for her approval, prosecutors believe.

Comments

Gundoctor1 1 year, 10 months ago

Mrs. Yates, Isn't it a shame that after all of your time and hard work this man, and the others involved, will get and have gotten no more time than they deserve. 2nd and 3rd offense DUI carry more consequence than these folks will actually receive.

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R 1 year, 10 months ago

Lassiter gets caught and trades sentence time for turning in HER personal circle of henchman and we call this a touchdown?

When are we going to see a larger net cast?

The current one seems to have some major holes in it…

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dpsnotty 1 year, 10 months ago

“He made a bad mistake. Young people sometimes make mistakes." WTF - he's 39 years old - old enough to know better

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Katrina 1 year, 10 months ago

You're so right, dpsnotty! If I hadn't known who he was talking about, I would have assumed he was referring to a 15-year-old!!

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Coolray 1 year, 10 months ago

I really hope we get to the bottom of this real soon. People are disillusioned with government and this adds more fuel to the fire. In the end, distrust of government hurts more than it helps. Voters have a responsiblity to know who they put in office and to hold them accountable. It really shouldn't be up to the DA or the US Attorney to do the job of an informed citizentry.

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Cleanupguy 1 year, 10 months ago

Informed citizenry - that there's funny, I don't care who you are. Low in (turnout) numbers, dumb as stumps - pretty much describes voters these days. Kenerly and Bannister re-elected, Lasseter's chair bought and paid for by Bannister, surrogates of the latter replacing them on the BOC. Speaking of which, the trash transfer station was Bannister's baby, carried out by an old political buddy of his, J C White - anyone wonder how they walked away clean?

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pcjohn 1 year, 10 months ago

I wouldn't give Porter any credit for this investigation; he has historically been blind to criminality by Gwinnett County employees. I assume it was Yates who carried the ball in this case and scored a touchdown. Porter would have fumbled like he did with Bannister.

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wrighton 1 year, 10 months ago

This is all part of the process Coolray and they need to keep digging. The US Attorney needs to be involved in Gwinnett. The DA is not getting the job done. There is too much cronyism. This should be the tip of the iceberg. An informed citizentry does not have the resources to dig up the dirt and those that do dig it up get castrated by those propping up the corruption.

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Kat 1 year, 10 months ago

If Gary was trying to do the right thing he would have gone to authorities as soon as Lasseter told him what her vote would cost. So far all four of them have received easy sentences for cooperating and giving info on others. Who are these others and when can we see them prosecuted? Of course everyone cooperated after they were caught. They wanted to broker the best deal for themselves. Young people make mistakes?? Did this attorney even think before he made that statement?

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Don 1 year, 10 months ago

We have become a society of no consequences! It is always somebody else who is at fault. Give me a break all Mark Gary was interested in was lining his pockets with more money and a 30k investment was a small amount compared to what the return would be. I really do not care if he built a couple of nice retirement centers for the seniors of Gwinnett.

He needs to pay the fine and go to prison and not a country club one.

I do hope the Feds are getting involved and go after him, Jenkins, Mason, Kennerly and Banister. I may have missed some so excuse me just add their names to the list.

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pcjohn 1 year, 10 months ago

You forgot Lillian Webb. There was a gal who could really plan a trip for her friends to the Big Apple. And let's hope they look into Nasuti's involvement with that ridiculous ball field and Beaudreau's deal with the trash haulers. C'mon Ms Yates and step aside Danny Porter, the job is too much for your minimal talents.

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wrighton 1 year, 10 months ago

All Commissioners need to be investigated. Beaudreau needs to be investigated thoroughly and immediately. Where is the DA and investigation? The trash deal and right offs are ridiculous. Not to mention the airport deal. Lassiter was revealed within days of airport vote. Was she the only commissioner bought off?

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