(WMBB) — On Friday, Lynn Haven’s former attorney became the sixth person to admit to federal crimes as part of an ongoing corruption probe.
Adam Albritton’s tone was muted and direct as he appeared via teleconference in front of Judge Mark Walker in the case.
Following the standard question and answer period for plea agreements, Albritton first agreed that he was making this decision of his own free will, that he was an American citizen, and that he was 34-years-old. He said he passed the Florida Bar Exam in 2011 and had spent the last decade on the other side of the law as a criminal, civil, and family attorney.
Albritton told Walker he had no previous experience in federal court until he became accused of federal crimes in Lynn Haven.
Albritton was indicted along with former Mayor Margo Anderson, former City Commission Member Antonious Barnes, and Phoenix Construction Owner James Finch. Most of the counts in the case involve fraud and bribery as part of several schemes connected to the city of Lynn Haven both before and after Hurricane Michael.
Five others have already pleaded guilty — City Manager Mike White, Lynn Haven Community Services Director David Horton, Erosion Control Specialist Owner David White, and ECS Employee Shannon Rodriguez, and Joshua Daniel Anderson, owner of GreenLeaf Lawn Care of Bay County.
During his plea hearing, Albritton admitted to the charges in counts 13 and 26 in the case. Those are wire fraud and honest services wire fraud. As part of the plea agreement, the prosecution has agreed to drop all other counts at the sentencing phase of the trial.
Albritton faces up to 20 years in prison on each count, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release. Albritton is also subject to forfeiture of all forfeitable assets.
Albritton first admitted that the facts in count 13 were correct and that he had David White’s company, Erosion Control Specialists, do hurricane clean-up work at his home. Then, without paying for the work, he requested an invoice from the company and submitted that invoice to his insurance company for reimbursement.
David White then billed Lynn Haven for the work claiming that their employees had been cleaning up city property.
In count 26, Albritton admitted that he took a bribe from David White and then pushed through a garbage contract with the city and ECS without putting it before the city commission. This was in relation to additional trash pickup to be performed by ECS after Hurricane Michael.
Prosecutors said that Albritton sent a text message to David White with dollar signs in it to show that he expected to be paid for the fraud.
However, Albritton’s attorney, Jim Parkman, said his client did not know that David White would take the city’s money and then not do the work he was supposed to do.
“It was just that Mr. White never told Mr. Albritton that he was going to do that,” Parkman said.
As part of the plea hearing, Albritton was required to state several times that he was not promised a favorable sentence and made to understand that Judge Walker would be the only one to decide what his sentence would be.
If he cooperates and testifies against the remaining defendants Albritton could “earn a substantial assistance agreement but was not entitled to one,” Walker said.
That agreement would be filed by prosecutors before Albritton was sentenced but prosecutors could simply choose not to file it and the judge could choose to ignore it when deciding Albritton’s fate.
The prosecution agreed as part of the plea agreement not to charge Albritton with any other crimes arising out of this situation.
The former attorney said he understood the situation. And then he said he was guilty.
“Do you plead guilty because you are in fact guilty of both counts?” Walker asked.
“Yes your honor,” Albritton replied.
Prosecutors have promised that a new indictment in the case involving Finch, Anderson, and Barnes is coming. That indictment will almost certainly include new information provided by Albritton.