Alabama lawmaker charged in kickback scheme | Courthouse News Service
Thursday, November 30, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, November 30, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Alabama lawmaker charged in kickback scheme

Alabama House Representative John Rogers is accused of pressuring a witness to lie to federal agents investigating kickbacks to his personal assistant and romantic partner.

(CN) — A longtime member of the Alabama Legislature became the second to be indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday, accused of engaging in a conspiracy to divert taxpayer money to his personal assistant, said to be a romantic partner of both lawmakers. 

John Rogers, a Democrat who has represented portions of Birmingham, Mountain Brook and Homewood since 1982, is said to have pressured an unnamed witness to lie to investigators from the FBI and IRS, who were probing how his assistant, Varrie Johnson Kindall, received more than $200,000 in kickbacks from a community fund established to benefit schools and youth in Jefferson County. 

Johnson was indicted Aug. 31 on related charges of wire fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice. In a superseding indictment Wednesday, prosecutors tacked on additional charges of tax evasion for Kindall, while also accusing Rogers of interfering in the investigation. 

Neither indictment gave many specific details, but noted Kindall had a “romantic relationship” with both Rogers and former Alabama State Representative Fred Lee Plump Jr., who also served as executive director of a local youth baseball league in Jefferson County. 

In 2015, amid a funding crisis in the county, the Alabama Legislature approved a 1% sales tax to support certain community interests. By 2017, the fund was generating around $3.6 million per year and each member of the Jefferson County legislative delegation could steer a portion of the money to agencies or organizations approved by the fund’s committee. 

Between 2018 and 2022, prosecutors claim, Rogers directed $400,000 toward Plump’s baseball league. And each time Plump received a check from the fund, he shaved off nearly half for Kindall, who according to the ledger, was being paid to provide “cheerleading” or “dance team” activities for the league. 

Instead, prosecutors say Kindall used the funds on personal expenses such as cash withdrawals and credit card debts. The indictment says the same scheme was employed at another unnamed organization, with another unnamed individual as a pass-through. The indictment does not accuse Rogers of receiving any of the money. 

But it is the unnamed individual, prosecutors say, who Rogers later attempted “to corruptly persuade and engage in misleading conduct” by attempting to convince the individual “to give false information to criminal investigators … with intent to hinder, delay, and prevent” their investigation. Rogers is also accused of offering the individual state grant money if the individual followed through with the lie. 

Plump, who only joined the Legislature in 2022, resigned in May over the scandal. In June, he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of obstruction of justice. He is scheduled to be sentenced in October. 

On Sept. 14, Kindall pleaded not guilty to charges against her in the original indictment. Each charge against Rogers is a felony with a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. Rogers could not immediately be reached for comment, but he has previously denied the allegations. 

Follow @gabetynes
Categories / Financial, Government, Law

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.