A jury found former Birmingham City Councilor and Jefferson County Commissioner John Katopodis guilty of 97 charges of mail and wire fraud today. Can Larry Langford and Bettye Fine Collins be far behind?
Jurors heard testimony in the week-long trial that tied Katopodis and his charities to Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford, County Commission President Bettye Fine Collins and current and former Birmingham City Council members. They began to deliberate Tuesday afternoon, after being told to consider each of the 97 counts individually. They returned a verdict about noon today.
Prosecutors, led by assistant U.S. Attorney George Martin, said Katopodis used the charity Computer Help for Kids, “as his own personal piggy bank.”
The charity, meant to give computers to needy children, was formed in 2000 by Katopodis, former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy and Langford.
The city of Birmingham contributed $200,000 to the charity, and Jefferson County between 2001 and 2007 gave $800,000, plus discretionary money from Langford, even though Computer Help for Kids failed during several of those years even to file the forms required of non-profits by the Internal Revenue Service.
The government claimed Katopodis used his connections with Langford and other politicians to steer taxpayer dollars to Computer Help for Kids. When he spent the charity’s money, he violated the public trust, Martin said.
Good grief! Can we finally get busy cleaning the stables, or are we just going to wait around for the federal courts to do it for us?