Ala. Agents Plead Guilty in Bribery Case

November 2, 2004

Two insurance agents have pleaded guilty in Birmingham, Ala. to giving money to Cherokee County elected officials in exchange for the county’s insurance business, the latest corruption case to surface in the county.

James L. Williams and Michael Tillery each entered guilty pleas yesterday before U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler to a federal charge of program fraud. Coogler set sentencing for Feb. 23.
The two men are the latest to face prosecution in a public corruption probe in the east Alabama county.

Phillip Jordan resigned his dual offices as Cherokee County Commission president and probate judge in June and then pleaded guilty in a landfill deal.

Williams and Tillery admitted taking part in a bribery scheme so the county would buy its casualty insurance from them.

Prosecutors said county residents paid more than $100,000 in excessive insurance premiums, compared with coverage that could have been gained through the Association of County Commissions.

Prosecutors said Williams paid $16,500 in bribes to Jordan, who awaits sentencing in January for accepting $65,000 in exchange for influencing a landfill deal in Cherokee County.

Williams told the FBI he encouraged Tillery to “take care” of another county public official, whom authorities have not identified. Tillery gave that elected official two $500 payments, which were referred to as campaign contributions.

The federal program fraud charge carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. As a result of their plea agreements, prosecutors will recommend a sentencing break for their cooperation.
The men already have paid the county $126,300 in restitution.

Prosecutors said Williams, an insurance broker with his own Gadsden-based independent insurance agency, and Tillery, an agent in Centre, had worked together for a number of years.

Williams provided insurance coverage for Cherokee through various companies from 2000 through 2004. He paid $26,300 in commission fees to Tillery after receiving the premium payment from Cherokee County.

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