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U.S. Attorney BJay Pak 'pleased with the pace' of Atlanta corruption probe

By Maria Saporta

U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak spoke briefly Tuesday about the ongoing corruption investigation into the city of Atlanta government.

Asked about the status of the investigation while attending a human trafficking meeting in Atlanta, Pak answered, “We are moving, we are definitely moving. I don’t intend on this to drag on. We along with the IRS have devoted a lot of resources to this investigation. I’m pleased with the pace and the progress of it.”

The lack of recent visibility of the investigation “doesn’t mean we are not doing anything,” Pak added. “We want to close this chapter as quickly as possible.”

The feds’ investigation into alleged corruption at Atlanta City Hall during the administration of former Mayor Kasim Reed has been underway since well before January 2017, when construction company owner E.R. Mitchell Jr. was charged with bribery and money laundering for allegedly paying more than $1 million to

U.S. Attorney BJay Pak and Greenberg Traurig’s Ted Blum at a business roundtable on human trafficking on Aug. 13 (Photo by Maria Saporta)

obtain city of Atlanta contracts.

A second contractor, Charles P. Richards, was charged with bribery in Feburary 2017. Both Mitchell and Richards later pled guilty and in October 2017 were sent to prison, with Mitchell getting five years and Richards getting two years and three months.

In January 2018, Adam L. Smith, the former chief procurement officer for the City of Atlanta, was sent to federal prison for two years and three months for conspiring to accept more than $40,000 in bribe payments from a vendor who obtained millions of dollars in city contracts.

Then in March 2018, former city of Atlanta official Mitzi Bickers was charged in the bribery scandal. Investigators allege that Bickers, who worked in city government from 2010 to 2013, accepted bribes from Mitchell and Richards to help their businesses get city contracts. The Bickers case continues to wind its way through court.

In February of this year, former City of Atlanta contractor Lohrasb “Jeff” Jafari was charged in a 51 count federal indictment with conspiratorial bribery, bribery, tampering with a witness, tax evasion, and money laundering for allegedly paying thousands of dollars in bribe payments to Adam Smith, the then-chief procurement officer of the city of Atlanta, along with an unidentified DeKalb County official.

That case also continues to wind its way through court. Jafari recently tried “to compel the government [to] lay out its evidence before the case goes to trial,” according to an Aug. 12 court filing by federal investigators.

David Allison, editor of the Atlanta Business Chronicle, contributed to this report.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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