CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Less than six months on the job, the mayor of Charlotte was arrested Wednesday and accused of accepting more than $48,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as businessmen who wanted to do work with North Carolina’s largest city. According to the Associated Press, he has now resigned.
Mayor Patrick Cannon, a 47-year-old Democrat who rose from the city’s public housing projects to become a successful businessman and politician, faces federal theft and bribery charges. Cannon solicited and accepted more than $48,000 in cash, airline tickets, a hotel room and the use of a luxury apartment as bribes, according to a criminal complaint.
If convicted on all the charges, he faces 20 years in prison and more than $1 million in fines.
Cannon, a longtime radio show host and the founder of E-Z parking, a parking management company, was elected mayor in November, replacing Anthony Foxx, who was named Transportation Secretary by President Barack Obama.
Telephone messages left for Cannon were not immediately returned. He had an initial court appearance Wednesday and was released on $25,000 unsecured bond.
According to the complaint, FBI agents posing as commercial real estate developers paid Cannon on five separate occasions between January 2013 and February 2014. Cannon accepted cash in exchange for access to city officials responsible for planning, zoning and permitting.
On the last occasion, Cannon accepted $20,000 in cash in the mayor’s office, the complaint said.
U.S. attorney’s office spokeswoman Lia Bantavani said the investigation was ongoing. She declined further comment.
The investigation began in August 2010 after a tip from a local undercover officer about public corruption. At the time, Cannon still held an at-large seat on the Charlotte City Council. He was first elected to the council in 1993 at age 26, becoming the youngest council member in the city’s history.
When he was 5, his father was found dead of a gunshot wound outside a vacant school. He was raised by his mother, Carmen, who worked on a truck assembly line. They lived in housing projects.
After graduating from South Mecklenburg High, he earned a degree in communications with a minor in marketing from historically black North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro.
Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor, said he was saddened and angered by the indictment. He said he had known Cannon’s family for more than 30 years.
“But more than anything, my heart is broken for the city of Charlotte,” McCrory said. “This is not the city that I know, served and love. This alleged behavior is inexcusable and cannot be tolerated.”
McCrory’s older brother Phil McCrory was a mentor to Cannon in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Their relationship would grow into a strong friendship, according Karen Calder, the chief executive officer of the organization. Cannon even served as a groomsman in Phil McCrory’s wedding.
According to the complaint, Cannon also accepted $12,500 from an undercover agent to help him develop a feminine hygiene product called “Hers.” In exchange, Cannon offered to help the agent — posing as a business manager for a venture capital company — get the necessary permits to open a nightclub.
During the meeting, an undercover agent told Cannon: “You know, again whatever you can do to get our application moved up towards the top, uh, business license and things like that, that we need.”