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Developer sentenced, but corruption probe still open

This artist’s rendering depicts developer Mark Gary — sentenced Tuesday for his crimes — being charged in federal court last September.

This artist’s rendering depicts developer Mark Gary — sentenced Tuesday for his crimes — being charged in federal court last September.

ATLANTA — The four players previously identified in a federal corruption probe targeting Gwinnett County have all been sentenced. Documents filed this week, though, suggest that the investigation still isn’t over.

Mark Gary, the 40-year-old developer charged with bribing then-Gwinnett Commissioner Shirley Lasseter for her vote on a waste station project, was sentenced Monday to two years in prison. He will also serve three years of supervised release following his incarceration.

Lasseter, son John Fanning and businessman Carl ‘Skip’ Cain (the latter two who helped sell Lasseter’s vote and were involved in a drug transaction) have all previously been charged, pleaded guilty and been sentenced in connection with the case. Lasseter and Cain have already begun serving their sentences of 33 and 57 months in prison, respectively. Fanning is likely to begin his prison time, also 57 months, soon.

No other suspects have been publicly identified, but, in a pre-sentencing motion detailing Gary’s cooperation with authorities, U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates hinted that the feds’ digging hasn’t yet finished.

“During the course of his cooperation, Defendant has worked in an undercover or covert capacity that commenced upon his being confronted by FBI agents in connection with the instant case,” Yates wrote in the document filed Monday. “In the course of this cooperation, Defendant made multiple undercover recordings that are of substantial assistance in the government’s ongoing investigation.”

“In addition,” Yates wrote, “Defendant has been debriefed on several other occassions and provided information which is of assistance in the government’s ongoing investigation.”

U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Bob Page told the Daily Post that Yates was out of town this week. No one else was immediately available for comment on the investigation’s current status.

In a sentencing memorandum also filed Monday, Gary — who owns and operates the Noble Village at Sugarloaf retirement community and is developing another — and attorney Paul Kish said that the former cooperated with authorities for a total of nine months. While the document said Gary “only blames himself for his situation,” it also pointed to a perceived sense of corruption within the county government.

“Defendant learned through the process of developing (his) first retirement community project about the level of fraud and corruption needed to ‘do business’ in Gwinnett County,” the memorandum said. “In 2008, Mr. Gary learned that Gwinnett County was considering an additional waste transfer station. He purchased an option on property that would be appropriate for such a project in that it did not require any rezoning. However, the project would require a use permit.”

After working on Lasseter’s election campaign, Gary was appointed to the planning commission and asked for her vote in support of the development on his land near Dacula.

“He learned that she would vote in favor of his waste station project,” the document said, “but only if he paid her a bribe. He succumbed, and in June 2009 he paid the bribe.”

Gary delivered $30,000 in chips to Fanning at an out-of-state casino.

The chief bribe detailed in the indictments of Lasseter, Fanning and Cain was one that included undercover agents rather than Gary. In 2011, the trio brokered Lasseter’s vote on a pawn shop proposed (by the agents) on Boggs Road near Duluth.

Fanning and Cain also made a trip to New York, bringing back four kilograms of “sham cocaine” that they believed would help fund the bribe.

In the aforementioned sentencing memorandum, Gary’s attorneys had suggested a sentence of one year, to be split between a halfway home and house arrest. Even with his cooperation, it turned out to be wishful thinking.

“Today’s sentencing illustrates the consequences of bypassing proper procedures of securing contracts and doing business with government agencies,” FBI Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Mark Giuliano said in a statement. “The FBI will continue to provide its investigative resources and expertise in addressing public corruption matters at all levels of government.”