JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Vicksburg Mayor Paul Winfield has been arrested on a federal bribery charge based on allegations he sought a $10,000 payment for a city contract.
The 39-year-old Democrat was scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate judge in U.S. District Court in Jackson on Thursday afternoon.
The criminal complaint in the case says a confidential source called Winfield on July 17, 2012, to discuss “pre-event disaster contracts” with the city.
The two allegedly met at a Jackson restaurant the next day, and the informant asked Winfield what it would take to get the contract.
“Winfield responded ‘Ten’ and held up 10 fingers, signifying $10,000,” the complaint says.
Winfield agreed to take half the money up front and the rest after the contract was awarded, according to the complaint. The complaint says the source paid Winfield $5,000 in hundred dollar bills that had been provided by the FBI.
In August, Winfield called the informant and said he owed $4,300 in taxes and was “in a bind,” the complaint said. They later met in the parking lot of a McDonald’s in Natchez, where the source gave Winfield another $2,000 and promised to give him the remaining $3,000 when the contract was awarded, according to the complaint.
Daniel McMullen, the FBI special agent in charge in Mississippi, said in a news release that Winfield was arrested Wednesday afternoon at his home. He was held overnight in the Madison County Jail in Canton.
If convicted, Winfield could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Lee D. Thames Jr., Vicksburg’s city attorney, said Thursday that city officials were “blindsided” by Winfield’s arrest and declined to comment because he said he didn’t know the specific charges against the mayor.
Thames said he didn’t know who would represent Winfield in the criminal case.
Winfield is completing his first term as mayor of the historic Mississippi River city, the site of a pivotal Civil War battle. Winfield recently qualified to seek re-election.
Winfield also is the subject of a sexual harassment lawsuit from a former city employee.
In that lawsuit, the former employee said she had a consensual sexual relationship with the mayor but ended it when he became “physically abusive,” according to the complaint filed Feb. 1, 2012.
She said the mayor continued to make unwanted sexual advances and offered to pay her overtime that she had not earned. The lawsuit alleges Winfield retaliated when he was rejected by eliminating her position as chief of staff.
Winfield has denied the allegations.
The lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial Feb. 10, 2014, before U.S. District Judge David C. Bramlette.
Winfield, a lawyer, was a partner in the firm Winfield and Moran before becoming mayor. He also served a brief time as municipal judge in Port Gibson, where he later worked as the attorney for the city. He also had served as the lawyer for the Warren County Board of Supervisors.