FBI launches campaign to root out public corruption

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — The FBI says many public corruption investigations start with tips from the public. So, on Monday, the FBI’s Norfolk Division announced a new effort to have the community help agents keep close tabs on our publicly elected officials.

John Adams, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of local FBI, said the initiative revolves around a new toll-free tip line, a billboard campaign and a free informational seminar for the public.

“Based on what we’re seeing across the country, we believe that there is likely corrupt activity going on that we are unaware of,” Adams said at a news conference Monday.

Just months ago, former Gov. Bob McDonnell was found guilty and sentenced on public corruption charges. The FBI helped investigate the relationship between McDonnell and businessman Jonnie Williams. He’s the man from whom McDonnell was convicted of accepting gifts and loans in exchange for promoting his products.

Adams said that case is exactly the type of activity the FBI is trying to uncover and stop.

“Public officials who are entrusted with authority are expected to serve their constituents and communities with integrity and honor. Greed and self interest have no place in public service,” Adams said.

Although he wouldn’t talk about them specifically, Adams said there are several public corruption investigations underway right now. The FBI is getting some tips now, but they are trying to get more on anything from bribery, fraud, extortion, conflict of interest, nepotism, influence peddling and corrupt influence from foreign investors.

“While most of our elected and appointed officials are hardworking, honest people who truly have the best interest of their community at heart, the FBI has investigated a number of significant corruption cases in the past few years in Hampton Roads and other areas of Virginia,” Adams said.

The FBI says the new initiative is not directly related to any current cases. However, 10 On Your Side has reported about two Virginia Beach politicians under investigation for possible conflicts of interest.

Mayor Will Sessoms is under investigation by a special prosecutor for votes he made on city council. Virginia Beach Councilman John Uhrin confirmed to 10 On Your Side that the city received a federal subpoena concerning his vote on the Cavalier Hotel project.

“The FBI is uniquely positioned to rude out pubic corruption and we will continue to expose public officials who undermine the integrity of our government, but we cannot do it alone,” SAC Adams said.

Here are two ways you can submit tips to the FBI confidentially:

If you want to learn more about how to be on the lookout for public corruption, you can go to the FBI’s “Aware.Prepare.Prevent” seminar on April 23. It starts at 4 p.m. at the Chesapeake Conference Center. For more info or to register in advance, call (757) 609-2595 or e-mail vanessa.torres@ic.fbi.gov.

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