Morgan, 57, was sentenced to five years, 11 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Henry R. Floyd on Feb. 18 for conspiring to take kickbacks from contractors seeking to do business with the city. Former building and zoning inspector Jeff Lawson, 41, was sentenced to 12 months and one day. Afterwards, both men will spend three years under supervised release.
Lawson is serving his sentence at the federal prison in Manchester, Ky.
The two men pleaded guilty in September 2008 to conspiracy and extorting money in violation of the Hobbs Act, the federal statute which prohibits public officials from using their position for personal gain.
Each man was ordered to pay $7,000 in restitution to their victims; forfeit $7,500 of their proceeds from their illegal activities to the FBI; and pay a $200 special assessment.
Morgan resigned in July 2008, just before it was announced that he and Lawson had been indicted on seven counts of violating the Hobbs Act. The indictment alleged that both men conspired to extort more than $30,000 in bribes and kickbacks from contractors.
According to U.S. Attorney W. Walter Wlkins’ office, rather than award contracts to the lowest bidder, Morgan and Lawson would identify potential contractors who might be willing to engage in a “pay to play” scheme. Lawson then approached the contractors and offered to award them contracts in return for kickbacks.
The scheme unraveled when one of the contractors solicited by Lawson approached the FBI. Agents with the FBI and SLED then arranged to make undercover bribe payments directly to Lawson. On July 2, 2008, agents approached Lawson after he accepted a $5,000 kickback. Lawson immediately confessed, named Morgan as his co-conspirator, and told agents about the three other contractors from whom he and Morgan had extorted payments. Lawson also agreed to wear a recording device while making payments to Morgan, which he did on July 3, 2008.