NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Norfolk’s city treasurer took hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and received home renovations and high-end appliances from a developer in exchange for helping the company obtain approval for projects, according to an indictment unsealed Friday.
Most of the eight charges stem from Burfoot’s relationship with the now-defunct Tivest Development and Construction while he was a councilman, vice mayor and deputy city treasurer between 2005 and 2011. He also is charged with soliciting $25,000 from another developer and local restaurant owner in exchange for supporting plans for a strip club in the city.
The charges include conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right, and perjury.
Burfoot was released on his own recognizance after an initial appearance before a federal magistrate and will plead innocent when he is arraigned Jan. 20, defense attorney Andrew Sacks said.
Sacks said in a telephone interview that Burfoot “is shocked and in disbelief” about the allegations.
“They are completely foreign to him,” Sacks said. “He suspects some of this is the result of political enemies and political detractors and critics.”
According to the indictment, Burfoot became a silent partner in Tivest in 2005, promising to use his influence as a councilman to direct projects to the company in exchange for cash payments, travel and entertainment. After he became concerned that his relationship with Tivest would be discovered, he allegedly demanded and received $250,000 to “cash out” his interest in the company even though he had not invested in it financially, the indictment said.
But the relationship continued, according to the indictment, as Tivest paid Burfoot about $100,000 for his help in funneling projects to the company from a $35 million federal grant for a mixed-use development. Burfoot also allegedly took thousands of dollars from the developer in connection with another mixed-use project and a downtown office tower project that ultimately fizzled.
The indictment said Tivest provided Burfoot benefits other than cash — a new residential heat pump, high-end appliances and about $155,000 in home renovations. Burfoot also bought a Tivest principal’s Mercedes for $20,000 but demanded that the executive make the payments, which he did, according to the indictment.
The indictment refers to Tivest’s principals only by their initials, but local media outlets have widely identified them as brothers Curtis and Dwight Etheridge. Dwight Etheridge is one of eight people convicted of bank fraud in connection with the collapse of Bank of the Commonwealth and is serving a four-year prison term.
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