NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Norfolk City Treasurer Anthony Burfoot has been indicted on federal public corruption and perjury charges.
The indictment was filed Thursday and unsealed Friday morning and lists the following counts: conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, honest services wire fraud, conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right, obtaining property under color of official right, perjury and criminal forfeiture.
“The indictment doesn’t surprise me whatsoever. It’s unfortunate to Mr. Burfoot, but the indictment doesn’t surprise me” — City Councilman Andy Protogyrou
Federal prosecutors allege Burfoot used his positions as Councilman, Vice Mayor and Chief Deputy Treasurer to enrich himself. They say he did this by soliciting and obtaining payments, gifts, and other things of value in exchange for official actions to benefit the individuals and their interests. Prosecutors call it a scheme.
10 On Your Side first reported last April that the city and Burfoot were issued subpoenas from the FBI demanding documents about deals done with Tivest Development and Construction, along with minutes from eight city council meetings. This is the result of those subpoenas.
The indictment states Burfoot became a silent partner in Tivest and promised other partners he would use his position to help direct city projects to Tivest. Prosecutors allege Burfoot manipulated a filing deadline in favor of Tivest for work on the Broad Creek Villas Development where Burfoot now owns a home. The feds also bring up the controversial Midtown Office Tower Development Project at Tidewater and Virginia Beach Blvd., where they allege Burfoot received $50,000 in cash and other gifts to show favor to Tivest with that development and then voted to approve the project for Tivest.
Stanley Stein at the Norfolk Treasurer’s Office told WAVY News 10, “You know as much as I do. He [Burfoot] called me to tell me that he was being arraigned today. That’s as much as I know.” When asked if Burfoot mentioned anything about what the charges were for, Stein replied, “He has no idea until they do it.”
The Department of Justice says Burfoot could face from five to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Burfoot’s attorney, Andrew Sacks, confirmed Burfoot turned himself in but says his client is innocent. “I think it is false, and not supported by reality. There is no support for the allegations. Mr. Burfoot did not get any payments, and it is the farthest thing from the truth.” Sacks added, “I think people are jealous of him, and it’s bubbling to the surface. There is obvious malice and bad blood that undermines these false accusations.” He said Burfoot is in disbelief.
Norfolk city leaders are speaking out about the allegations. City Councilman Andy Protogyrou had this immediate reaction to the news, “The indictment doesn’t surprise me whatsoever. It’s unfortunate to Mr. Burfoot, but the indictment doesn’t surprise me. The deal on the Tivest matter back in 2011 when it came before the Council, when myself and the Vice Mayor and Mr. Smiegel voted against it, stunk and it was a deal that we couldn’t accept on behalf of the city and the citizens and that is really what a lot of this seems to stem back to.”
Vice Mayor Angelia Williams Graves added, “I am surprised. I’ve always said that Anthony has done good things for his ward. But… that deal just didn’t make sense. The nuts and bolts of it just didn’t come together for me and that is the reason I voted against it. So, if this is the result of it, we were right on in our instincts.”
“He [Burfoot] absolutely will not resign.” — Attorney Andrew Sacks
Norfolk Sheriff Bob McCabe is calling for Burfoot to take a leave of absence. “Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. However, due to the serious charges of using his office for personal gain, there is a loss of public trust and confidence in Mr. Burfoot to oversee the tax collections of individuals and businesses in the City of Norfolk.” McCabe said in a release.
Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim released the following statement:
“These are serious and distressing charges but as Mayor and a lawyer I have learned not to speculate. My trust is in the legal process as it runs its course.”
Burfoot was released on his own recognizance. He will be arraigned on January 20.