Alabama lawmaker accused in kickback scheme resigns amid federal charges

Published: May. 23, 2023 at 11:44 AM CDT|Updated: May. 23, 2023 at 5:18 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - An Alabama lawmaker has agreed to resign after being charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice by the U.S. Department of Justice. State Rep. Fred L. Plump Jr., 76, D-Fairfield, agreed to resign, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

The charges stem from an investigation of wrongdoing in connection with the Jefferson County Community Service (JCCS) Fund.

The DOJ says around March 2019 and continuing through April 2023, Plump conspired with others to defraud and obtain money from the fund. It is alleged that the member of the House recommended during each fiscal year that most of his allotment of fund money be paid to Piper Davis Youth Baseball League. In turn, Plump is accused of agreeing to pay kickbacks to the member’s assistant. Plump is accused of submitting false and fraudulent information to the Committee about Piper Davis’ intended use of Fund money. Plump then reportedly gave the member’s assistant checks for approximately half of the amount of fund money received by Piper Davis.

A check of public records by WBRC FOX6 News details the spending. It shows that State Rep. John Rogers gave the Piper Davis Youth Baseball League $385,773 during that time. Rep. Rogers is 1 of only 2 state representatives listed as contributing Jefferson County Community Service funds to the Piper Davis League. The other is former State Rep. Rod Scott. He contributed $3,722.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office won’t disclose the identity of “Legislator #1″ and we reached out to Rogers for a comment.

Below is a discussion between WBRC’s Jonathan Hardison and Rogers:

Hardison: The indictment says Fred was turning around and cutting half of that money back to your assistant - did you know anything about that?

Rogers: I didn’t know anything about that at all. Nothing at all.

Hardison: Did you suspect anything? Do you think this is true?

Rogers: Well, I asked her and she told me she and Fred were dating - they were an item and he was giving her money..... Once they OK it, they cut the check to the agency. At that point, the Legislature has nothing to do with it. Once you tell me you’re going to use it for football and baseball, that’s where I assume you’re going to use it. I don’t see it anymore. I don’t talk to any agency about it, once it’s secured through the third party - it’s ok.

As for Plump, after being interviewed by agents and served with a grand jury subpoena, the DOJ says in the press release that he tried to interfere with the investigation by sending a text to “Individual #1″ stating “Red Alert” and meeting with “Individual #1” to warn her about the investigation.

According to the plea agreement, also filed Tuesday, May 23, Plump agreed to plead guilty to the charges, pay restitution of at least $200,000 to the JCSS Fund, and resign from office immediately upon entering his guilty plea.

The Court will set a date for Plump to enter his guilty plea. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Plump was elected in November of 2022 and represented District 55, which includes parts of Adamsville, Birmingham, Fairfield, and Graysville.

The Jefferson County Commission released the following statement:

“The Jefferson County Commission applauds law enforcement and their investigation of the Jefferson County Community Service Fund,” according to Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens and Commission President Pro-Tempore Joe Knight. “This fund was created by an act of the state legislature and the dollars come from the sales tax disbursement that the County began levying in August 2017. The checks and balances that were put into place by the legislature appear to have worked. The Commission is surprised by this turn of events and is closely monitoring the situation.”

The attorney for Fred Plump Jr. released the following statement:

“For decades, Representative Fred “Coach” Plump has tirelessly and unselfishly given so much to so many at-risk inner-city youths through the Piper Davis Youth Baseball League, a community based non-profit 501(c)(3) organization which he created. Through his passion for sports and dedication to the Birmingham community, he has changed the lives of countless young boys and girls. Although he did not personally profit, his heart was always in the right spot despite the clear errors in judgment for which he now takes full responsibility. Representative Plump will be resigning his seat in the Alabama Legislature effective immediately. Fred Plump appreciates and is fortunate to have the overwhelming support of the community he has served for so long.”

Michael Brymer, Attorney for the Jefferson County Community Service Fund Committee, released the following statement:

“Earlier this morning, the committee became aware of the information filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. As laid out in the information, this fund was established by state law to disburse community service grants from the Jefferson County’s legislative delegation using the proceeds of a 1 percent county sales tax.

The four committee members are selected by the Jefferson County state legislative delegation. It is the committee’s job to review the grant requests and decide whether to approve or deny those requests based on criteria contained in the law.

Working in cooperation with the fund administrators, the committee has worked diligently over the years to perform this job with full transparency. Committee members have approved millions of dollars in grants to many schools, other public entities, and nonprofit organizations. The committee posts all grant awards and denials online, along with the supporting documentation and minutes from committee meetings. The committee strives to ensure the process is conducted in accordance with the law and the committee’s operating procedures. While the law does not require recipients to report back to the committee about the use of these grants, the committee has never received any complaints that funds were misdirected in any way.

Previously, the fund was asked to furnish its records to the authorities investigating this matter. The fund is cooperating fully with those authorities. The committee remains committed to making sure that these community service grant funds are distributed and used according to the law. As this is an on-going legal matter, the fund and its committee members will not have any further comment until all proceedings have concluded.”

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