Former Mayor of Birmingham Heads To Prison For 15 Years


Former Birmingham mayor Larry Langford reports to prison Wednesday in Ashland, Kentucky, after a federal judge last week denied his request to remain free while appealing his October conviction on fraud charges.

Langford, who was sentenced to serve 15 years in federal prison, was allowed to delay the start of his prison service for two days because his father-in-law was having surgery last week.

The former mayor was convicted on charges he accepted cash, clothing and jewelry from an investment banker and rewarded him with lucrative business deals while serving as president of the Jefferson County Commission. He held that post before being elected without a runoff as mayor of Birmingham 2007.

Langford lawyer Glennon Threatt has said the sentence of 15 years means his client would be incarcerated for at least 85 percent of the time.

A former television news man, Langford is 62 and would be 77 when he completes his prison term.

“Larry Langford told me from the very first day I met with him that he is innocent, and he has never told me that he has changed his mind,” Threatt said last month.

The two men who bribed Langford agreed to a plea deal and testified for the prosecution during Langford’s trial. They received much shorter sentences.

In February, Judge Scott Coogler sentenced Bill Blount, the investment banker, to four years and four months in prison and ordered him to forfeit $1 million. He sentenced Al LaPierre, a friend of both men who was involved in the deals, to four years in prison and ordered him to forfeit $371,932 and pay $98,433 in back taxes to the IRS.

In addition to his prison sentence, Langford must pay $119,985 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and forfeit $241,843 to the government.

The restitution to the IRS results from his convictions for filing false tax returns for the years 2003, 2004 and 2005, in which he failed to report his income from the bribes.

A second former Jefferson County commissioner, Mary Buckelew, also has been convicted in connection with accepting bribes from Blount, who bought her expensive items from the Salvatore Ferragamo store, as well as spa treatments during New York City trips in 2003 and 2004 while she was a county commissioner.

Buckelew pled guilty last year to obstruction of justice and agreed to cooperate with the investigation. In November, U.S. District Judge Inge Johnson sentenced Buckelew to three years probation.

Between 2002 and 2007, while Langford was president of the Jefferson County Commission and chairman of its finance committee, he solicited and accepted $241,843 in cash, loan payoffs, expensive clothing and jewelry from Blount and LaPierre, intending to be influenced and rewarded in connection with the awarding of lucrative county financial transactions.

In return for the bribes, Langford used his power and position on the county commission to include Blount’s company in financial transactions that generated about $7.2 million in fees for Blount and his companies. Blount, in turn, paid LaPierre hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees.

Trouble continues to mount for the 62-year-old news-reporter-turned politician. A bank is suing Langford over unpaid loan for $85,000.

In a lawsuit filed last week in Jefferson County Circuit Court, Compass (bank) says Langford took out a loan in 2001 and has only paid about $2,100. The suit asks Langford to pay $82,919, plus legal fees of $12,400 in legal fees and interest payments that are continuing to accrue.

In a matter unrelated to Langford’s conviction and sentencing, a lawyer for an electronic bingo casino in west Alabama has accused state revenue officials of illegally releasing Langford’s tax returns in a suit over his bingo winnings.

Attorney Gaile Pugh Gratton has filed court papers saying Langford’s returns for 2006 through 2008 were released by the Alabama Department of Revenue without a court order.

Those records showed that Langford won about $1.5 million over three years, losing just as much as he won in 555 jackpots.

Gratton also produced a letter dated Feb. 22 from Richard H. Henninger, director of the agency’s individual and corporate tax division, saying it does not release tax returns without a court order signed by a judge.

“It appears from the limited investigation already conducted that the production of the Langford tax returns was accomplished in violation of the pertinent statute and regulations,” Gratton said in the latest court documents.

She said the department has not responded to numerous requests for information on how it came to release the tax records.


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