The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida has announced a 64-count indictment against the City of Lynn Haven’s former mayor and city attorney for their alleged involvement in a fraud and corruption case related to Hurricane Michael clean-up activities.
Former Lynn Haven Mayor Margo Anderson, 65, of Jacksonville, FL, and Lynn Haven City Attorney Joseph Adam Albritton, 33, of Lynn Haven, FL, have been indicted for conspiring to commit wire fraud and honest services fraud, substantive counts of wire fraud, honest services fraud, and theft concerning federal programs. Anderson also faces charges for making false statements to FBI agents, while Albritton is additionally charged with submitting a false invoice to an insurance company for hurricane debris removal from his residence. Attorney information was not available.
According to the indictment, on October 16, 2018, the city of Lynn Haven went into a state of emergency in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in order to quickly facilitate post-disaster relief and planning. City officials also passed a resolution waiving protocols normally required under Florida law, allowing them to take action to ensure the safety and welfare of the city’s residents in a timely manner. The resolution delegated emergency powers to Anderson, allowing her and whoever she designates to independently enter into contracts with third parties and spend public funds.
Even though the emergency declaration only lasted for two weeks, the city reportedly entered into an agreement with David White, owner of Erosion Control Specialists (ECS), to provide debris clean-up services in the aftermath of the hurricane.
ECS was allegedly paid by the city for services that were not authorized under the emergency contract, such as clean-up work allegedly performed at the residences of the former mayor, her mother, and a neighbor that cost over $48,000. An additional $25,000 worth of cleanup work was purportedly performed at the private residences of he city attorney and his girlfriend. The city attorney-defendant then reportedly filed an insurance claim alleging his home had been damaged by the hurricane and he had paid for the cleanup. He purportedly sent his insurer a fraudulent invoice from ECS indicating he had paid for debris removal, tree removal, and the installation of a tarp to his residence for $9,600.
After the city’s emergency declaration expired, the accused city attorney allegedly conspired with former City Manager Michael White to award a trash pick-up project to ECS, even though the city reportedly has waste trucks that can perform the same work at no additional cost. ECS was reportedly paid in excess of $300 per hour, per crew for the work. In exchange for the contract, the accused city attorney allegedly demanded and received $10,000 in cash for every week of trash services ECS billed the city from mid-October 2018 to January 2019. Overall, the city was billed $1.8 million for unnecessary work, the indictment claims.
The case against the defendants is a follow-up to the indictment made public in November 2019 that announced fraud charges relating to post-Hurricane Michael cleanup services against former City Manager Michael White, former Lynn Haven Community Services Director David Horton, and ECS owner David White. All of the defendants in that case have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
Fraud is a serious offense with severe penalties. Anyone suspected of committing fraud in Florida should consult an experienced fraud defense attorney. A good attorney can conduct an unbiased review of the available evidence and come up with a winning defense strategy.
South Florida Fraud Defense Attorney