Charlotte, N.C., Mayor Patrick Cannon was arrested Wednesday and charged with corruption. According to a statement from Anne Tompkins, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, a criminal complaint filed in federal court Wednesday charged Cannon with “theft and bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, honest services wire fraud and extortion under colour of official right.” An affidavit filed in support of that complaint by FBI Special Agent Eric Davis showed one of the allegations against Cannon is a scheme to collect bribes using a “feminine hygiene product.”
Davis’ affidavit accused Cannon of “soliciting and accepting things of value — namely over $US480,000 in cash, airline tickets, a hotel room, and the use of a luxury apartment” from undercover FBI agents posing as business people who wanted Cannon to use his position to help their various development projects. At least $US12,500 of that amount allegedly was given to Cannon as a loan to help him start selling a mysterious feminine hygiene product called HERS.
According to Davis, one of the undercover FBI agents posed as a Chicago-based venture capitalist who wanted to build a nightclub in Charlotte. Davis said that undercover agent had dinner with Cannon on Dec. 12, 2012. At the meal, Davis said Cannon, who was then a City Council member and mayor pro tem, asked the undercover agent if they “would be willing to invest in a business that Cannon was allegedly creating named ‘HERS.'”
“HERS, according to Cannon, was a feminine hygiene product to be marketed and sold in the United States,” Davis said.
Davis said the undercover agent “agreed to provide Cannon a $US12,500 ‘zero-per cent return-on-investment’ loan for the alleged HERS product” in exchange for “his assistance with zoning and permitting” for the planned nightclub.
“Cannon told [the undercover agent] that a full container of the product was ‘gonna cost me forty thousand dollars.’ Cannon then said, ‘I can do something for about $US12,500,'” Davis said.
On Jan. 8, 2013, Davis said Cannon sent the undercover agent “some basic documents about HERS, including a rudimentary slide show and spreadsheets” and told them about “possible investment levels” starting with $US12,500 for one container of the product. The materials allegedly sent by Cannon also said there were “different figures for larger or multiple containers.”
Davis’ complaint said Cannon then met with the undercover agent at his apartment and accepted the $US12,500 in cash. According to Davis, Cannon initially reacted to the money being placed on a coffee table by looking “nervously toward the window and” covering the cash “with a folder.” Cannon’s apparent trepidation caused the undercover agent to shut the window blinds. Once the blinds were closed, Davis said Cannon “placed the money near his ear and fanned the bills.” In addition to giving Cannon the money, Davis said the undercover agent discussed the help that he expected to receive for the nightclub project.
The following day, Cannon allegedly called the undercover agent and “offered to return” the “investment in HERS” if it “was intended for Cannon’s use of his official office.” According to the criminal complaint, Cannon said, “I’m not one of those Chicago- or Detroit-type, uh, folk,” and said he looked good “in an orange necktie, but not an orange suit.” However, in spite of this conversation, Davis said Cannon “failed to show up” for meetings on “two separate occasions” when the undercover agent came to Charlotte specifically to “discuss the payment and provide Cannon the opportunity to return the bribe.”
Though HERS was central to Cannon’s alleged bribery scheme, Davis said investigators were unable to find any evidence the mayor’s feminine hygiene product business existed.
“Based on the financial investigation to date, the FBI has been unable to locate any bank account or corporate filing for HERS … or any corporate filings linking Cannon to HERS,” Davis said. “The only potential financial transaction known to the FBI linking Cannon to an investment in HERS is a $US1,000 wire transfer from Cannon’s personal bank account to Taiwan dated May 8, 2012, marked ‘R&D.'”
Business Insider called Cannon’s office to ask about the charges and whether he operates a feminine-hygiene-product business. A spokeswoman for the mayor who identified herself only as Phyllis said she would not comment on anything relating to the allegations.
Read Davis’ full affidavit below.
Additional reporting by Brett LoGiurato
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