Treasurer’s Corruption Trial Slated for Monday

     NORFOLK, Va. (CN) — A city treasurer charged with accepting nearly $500,000 in cash and gifts over a four-year period in exchange for political favors will stand trial in federal court on Monday.
     Anthony Burfoot, who has refused to resign as Norfolk’s treasurer or from his post on the city council, was indicted on Jan. 7, 2016 on conspiracy, fraud and perjury charges.
     Prosecutors say in addition to accepting bribes and soliciting kickbacks, Burfoot also misappropriated money from taxpayers.
     He pleaded not guilty to the charges, and was released without having to post bond on the condition that he surrendered his passport and agreed not to speak with witnesses in the case.
     But Burfoot’s decision not to resign following his indictment has angered many.
     A petition drive seeking the treasurer’s recall got underway in February and since then, it has been signed by more than 6,000 Norfolk residents.
     The petition was circulated by the Citizens Recall Committee, a group founded by civic activist and frequent Burfoot critic John Wesley Hill.
     Hill previously sought an injunction to prevent Burfoot from serving both on the city council and in the treasurer’s office.
     The recall effort has been in limbo since Aug. 25, 2016, after a circuit court judge ruled that any decision on the petition’s merits would be postponed under after Burfoot’s federal trial.
     Burfoot was elected to the Norfolk City Council in May 2007, and served for a number of years as the city’s vice mayor.
     He became Norfolk’s chief deputy treasurer on Dec. 8, 2008.
     The indictment against Burfoot says that between 2005 and 2001, he solicited payments and gifts in exchange for advancing the interests if Tivest Development and Construction, with whom, prosecutors say, he served as a “silent” business partner.
     Prosecutors say Burfoot manipulated a filing deadline to benefit Tivest in its development of Norfolk’s Broad Creek Villas a community in which the city treasurer owned a home.
     According to the indictment, Burfoot demanded that Tivest pay him $250,000 or else they could forget about being awarded the project.
     Prosecutors also claim that Burfoot tried to cover his tracks by requiring that payments be made to him in increments of $10,000 or less.
     The indictment goes on to described the steps Burfoot took to ease the way for the Broad Creek project, including having land rezoned for use as a mixed-use development.
     Federal prosecutors charge Burfoot made similar demands of Tivest and took comparable steps on the company’s behalf in regard to the construction of a midtown office tower.
     They claim Burfoot received $50,000 in cash and other gifts to advance the project, which was never completed.
     Instead, Tivest went bankrupt and its president, Dwight Ethridge, was later charged with bank fraud and given a 50-month sentence.
     The indictment says Burfoot accepted a $25,000 bribe to get his support for the opening of a strip club for a locally prominent restaurant owner and developer.
     Later, Burfoot publicly denied supporting the strip club, telling a reporter for the Virginian-Pilot newspaper that he could not support such a club after the city council had shut down two others.
     Prosecutors also claim Burfoot coached his employees in how to falsely respond to FBI and federal grand jury inquiries.
     Burfoot faces several years in jail, fines and being ordered to forfeit at least $475,000 if convicted on all counts.

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