Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox, who led the state Democratic Party and made runs for Florida governor, attorney general and agriculture commissioner, is under investigation by the FBI for mail fraud and bribery, according to a search warrant affidavit apparently left unsealed by the federal court.
According to the Tallahassee Democrat, first to report the story Monday, the only other party named in the 21-page affidavit as a target in the years-long FBI undercover operation is Maddox's longtime friend and business associate, Page Carter-Smith.
Meanwhile, Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is not under bureau investigation, at least not as far as this affidavit indicates -- exactly as Gillum repeatedly insisted.
"As I have said from Day One, any wrongdoing found in City Hall should be uncovered and any individuals involved held accountable," the mayor said in a written statement. "As Tallahasseeans, we are all troubled by what we've read and are hopeful for a just and speedy conclusion to this unfortunate matter."
The affidavit deals with Maddox and Carter-Smith’s "interaction with undercover FBI agents and others regarding the controversial Tallahassee City Commission vote on a ride-sharing company, apparently Uber," the Democrat writes.
The FBI built its case around a probe of “Governance, Inc.,” the company Maddox owned but later claimed to sell to Carter-Smith some seven years ago. The affidavit claims, “Maddox continued to control Governance and profit from its activities, to include lobbying activities in the City of Tallahassee, for years after the 2012 election.”
The bottom line is, since 2012, Governance has taken in a ballpark $400,000 from at least four businesses in Tallahassee, the affidavit states.
In 2015 The FBI launched its multi-year, ABSCAM-style sting, suspecting corruption of local officials. Agents posed as real estate developers an aspiring medical marijuana magnate and the leader of an energy efficiency company to “gain access to various city officials, including Maddox,” the affidavit reveals.
The build-up to the FBI's findings grew in legend as the months and years progressed. Some of Florida’s most ambitious political climbers were rumored to be in the crosshairs, including Gillum, who has his sights set on the Governor’s Mansion.
“It’s very big,” James Wedick, a retired FBI undercover agent who worked hundreds of public corruption cases at all levels of government, told USA Today last August. “Public corruption is one of the violations that the bureau is best at handling. We’ve got the money, resources and agents to do it and we’ve got the people who understand the crime.”
The affidavit explains, “Financial analysis conducted to date reveals that since November 2012, Governance has made approximately $392,000 in payments directly to Maddox or Maddox and his wife, and approximately $191,000 in payments to Maddox’s immediate family members, to include payments to credit cards owned by Governance but used by Maddox and his family members.”
The Democrat follows affidavit details: "Company One (likely Uber) paid Governance $30,000 between May and October of 2015. During that same period, Governance paid Maddox approximately $50,000. This amount does not include approximately $49,000 in credit card charges to credit cards belonging to Governance for which Maddox’s son and father were the authorized users."
Further, the debts of those cards were paid by Governance and Governance paid $20,000 in rent for a Maddox-owned Jacksonville law firm, according to the document.
Object of the search warrant apparently is to require Apple to disclose communications, government records, and other information from Maddox's Apple IDs and iCloud account, says the Democrat. It's unlikely to be easy. The computer giant is known to resist government cooperation.
Special Agent Evan Hurley writes in the affidavit: “In my training and experience, evidence of who was using an Apple ID and from where, and evidence related to criminal activities of the kind described above, may be found in the files and records described above, specifically text message record, to include iMessage and email communications. This evidence may establish the 'who, what, why, when, where and how' of the criminal conduct under investigation, thus enabling the United States to establish and prove each element or, alternatively, to exclude the innocent from further suspicion.”
Maddox has already filed to run for the state Senate in 2020. That would be 20 years after his political career began, according to his biography.
In 1990, at the age of 22, he ran for the Florida House's 10th district, but lost the Democratic primary by 32 percent. In 1993, while still in law school, Maddox became the youngest city commissioner in the city of Tallahassee's history, elected at the age of 24, and a year later selected to become mayor pro-tempore. In 1995, the City Commission chose Maddox as the city's mayor.
Described by Vice President Al Gore as a "rising star," Maddox spoke at the 2000 Democratic National Convention. But when he attempted a run for Florida attorney general in 2002, he lost to future Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer in the Democratic primary. In 2003, he was elected chairman of the Florida Democratic Party and also served as a member of the Democratic National Committee.
Though Maddox tried running for a number of offices after that, he failed to win any of them except his reelection to the City Commission in August 2016.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith
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