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New indictment alleges Lynn Haven corruption began years before Hurricane Michael

The indictment from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida...
The indictment from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida details the relationship between Margo Deal Anderson and James Finch, accusing the two of fraud and telling investigators false information.(WJHG)
Published: Nov. 19, 2021 at 4:33 PM CST
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LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - An indictment handed down this week by federal investigators is alleging years of fraud by the former Lynn Haven mayor and a local businessman. Past indictments detailed corruption charges that started after Hurricane Michael, but this week’s indictment shows a pattern of corruption that began in 2015.

The indictment from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida details the relationship between Margo Deal Anderson and James Finch, accusing the two of fraud and telling investigators false information.

In the 58 page Second Superseding Indictment, Finch is accused of paying for multiple trips to Biloxi and Key West for Anderson and her husband. The couple reportedly took these trips on Finch’s private jet. He also allegedly bought a motorhome and gave it to Anderson.

Finch is also accused of giving “loans” to then Lynn Haven City Commissioner Antonius Barnes, which Barnes never paid back. Barnes entered a plea deal in October for his role in the case.

The indictment also alleges Anderson would push for Finch’s business to get bids with the city. It says Anderson and Barnes would vote in favor of Finch’s bids or plans.

All of these accusations took place before and after Hurricane Michael hit the Florida panhandle on October 10, 2018.

After Hurricane Michael hit, the indictment accuses Anderson of knowing and signing off on fraudulent charges to local business Erosion Control Specialists. The charges were for debris clean-up and trash pick-up that never happened. Anderson is also accused of having debris cleaned up on her property by the company and having the city pay for it.

According to the indictment, Finch allegedly complained during a meeting at his home with Anderson, former city manager Michael White, and representatives from other businesses that he wasn’t receiving any of Lynn Haven’s post-Hurricane Michael business. The indictment says the day after the meeting, the debris clean-up companies were instructed to use Finch’s property as a drop site. The indictment also accuses Finch of paying for Anderson’s legal fees after she was arrested and indicted the first time on fraud charges connected to the Hurricane Michael debris clean-up.

Finch and Anderson are both accused of lying to FBI agents and investigators about what they knew in the case.

To read the full 26 count indictment, click here.

Anderson and Finch are scheduled to have a telephone conference with a federal judge in December.

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