LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A fourth person has changed their plea in connection with a corruption investigation in Lynn Haven dealing with Hurricane Michael clean up.
Joshua Anderson, owner of GreenLeaf Lawn Care of Bay County, entered a guilty plea to a single charge of wire fraud. According to the United States Attorney's Office, Anderson admitted to fraudulently billing Lynn Haven for more than $16,600 for lawn care services he claimed his company performed under a lawn care contract with the city, when his employees were actually working on hurricane debris removal for another conspirator, Erosion Control Specialists owner David Mitchel White.
They say Erosion Control Specialists billed the city for the GreenLeaf employees' debris removal work and ECS was paid by Lynn Haven. From that money, ECS then paid Anderson for his work and that of his employees for this same time-period. The money was electronically paid, giving rise to the wire fraud count against Anderson.
“The flagrant violation of the public trust revealed in this indictment shows the depths to which some individuals will stoop in order to profit from the suffering of others. This office will not sit back and allow that to happen,” said U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe. “Public officials and private business owners conspired to steal money that was supposed to benefit the entire community, and now they will face the consequences of their greed-driven misdeeds.”
Anderson faces a max of 20 years in prison, three years supervised release, a $250,000 fine, and a $100 special monetary assessment to be paid prior to sentencing. He also agreed to pay full restitution to his victims and forfeit all property derived from the proceeds of the fraud or used to facilitate it.
Three other defendants have already pleaded guilty, including former Lynn Haven City Manager Michael White, ECS owner David White, and Shannon Rodriguez.
The other defendant, former Lynn Haven Community Service Director David Horton, is currently scheduled to have a trial on June 1, 2020.
February 25, 2020:
Three of the five people accused of stealing $5 million from the city of Lynn Haven after Hurricane Michael have changed their pleas in federal court Tuesday.
According to court documents, former City Manager Michael White, Erosion Control Specialist Owner David White (no relation), and Erosion Control Specialist Employee Shannon Rodriguez pleaded guilty to some of the charges brought against them.
Michael White pleaded guilty to attempt and conspiracy to commit mail fraud and three counts of fraud by wire, radio, or television. David White pleaded guilty to attempt and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, two counts of fraud by wire, radio, or television, and false or fraudulent claims. Rodriguez pleaded guilty to attempt and conspiracy to commit mail fraud and fraud by wire, radio, or television.
The tentative date for their sentencing is July 2, 2020.
The indictment from the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida Lawrence Keefe alleged $5 million was stolen from Lynn Haven through fraudulent invoices. Our full previous story on this case is attached below.
Michael White's plea agreement says he faces up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $250,000 fine, and $100 special monetary assessment to each count.
November 19, 2019
United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida Lawrence Keefe held a press conference Tuesday afternoon talking about corruption in Lynn Haven.
The indictments handed out Tuesday allege public officials in Lynn Haven stole government money after Hurricane Michael.
Indicted in this investigation are:
Michael Edward White, former Lynn Haven City Manager
David Wayne Horton, employee of Lynn Haven
David Mitchell White, Erosion Control Specialist Owner (no relation to Michael White)
Joshua Daniel Anderson, Greenleaf Lawn Care Owner
Shannon Delores Rodriguez, employee of Erosion Control Specialist
The indictment alleges $5 million was stolen through fraudulent invoices from Lynn Haven. It says Lynn Haven then submitted these invoices to FEMA, not knowing they were fraudulent. Attorneys say it is unclear if Lynn Haven will be reimbursed the $5 million stolen from it.
It also says the companies cleaned up Lynn Haven city officials' homes after Hurricane Michael and labeled them as public cleaning.
The indictment goes on to allege Michael White and Horton were getting kick-backs during the time after Hurricane Michael from Erosion Control Specialists and Greenleaf.
Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford said this is the first of the indictments regarding this case and believes more will come.
This investigation is not connected with the corruption investigation from Holmes County announced last week.
City officials say they’re looking into contracts with Greenleaf Lawn Care and also looking closer into any invoices with Erosion Control Specialists.
We’ve reached out to both companies but have not heard a response from either.
Mayor Margo Anderson’s property was also listed on an invoice but she says it was incorrectly labeled.
She says the cleanup company cleaned a storm water easement running adjacent to her property.
She says debris and trees from the easement fell onto or near her property after hurricane Michael.
The indictment also mentions properties and residences belonging to some other Lynn Haven Officials being cleaned by ECS.
The invoices were also billed directly to the city of Lynn Haven.
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