Between May and July, 2003, Robert Moultrie, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Facility Group, began planning a fund raiser for the public official, then Mississippi Governor Ronnie Musgrove, at his residence in Atlanta, Georgia, in order to obtain his good will. Moultrie and Nick Cawood, President and Chief Operating Officer of The Facility Group, invited several FCMI employees to attend the fund raiser and donate $1,000 each. Cawood told the employees that they would be reimbursed for these contributions through bonuses to their salaries. The fund raiser was held on July 23, 2003 and raised approximately $50,000 for Musgrove’s campaign. Subsequently, the company reimbursed their employees.
In July, 2003, Moultrie caused to be created The Facility Group Political Action Committee. In August, 2003, to complete the amount contemplated in the.July fund raiser, Moultrie caused the PAC to issue a $20,000 check to Musgrove’s campaign. However, in September, 2003, Musgrove contacted Moultrie for another campaign contribution of $25,000. At the time, The Facility Group was aware of potential problems in the design and construction of the plant. Moultrie and Cawood subsequently had a conversation about giving this contribution to Musgrove intending to influence and reward him for the performance of his official duties should his assistance be needed on any potential problems on the project. On or about September 30, 2003, Moultrie caused the PAC to issue another check for $25,000 to the campaign of the public official.
The Clarion Ledger now has this breaking news story up at their website. Student-journalist Paul Quinn has the report:
A Georgia businessman charged in connection with the beef plant debacle that cost Mississippi taxpayers millions of dollars pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to corruptly influence a public official.
Robert Moultrie, chairman and chief executive of the Facility Group of Smyrna, Ga., admitted that he gave $25,000 in campaign contributions to the re-election campaign of then-Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.
Moultrie is set to be sentenced in 45 to 60 days before U.S. Judge Mike Mills.
Musgrove has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
When asked in March about the contributions, Musgrove through campaign manager Amanda Crumley told The Associated Press that he had “nothing to do with the awarding of any of the contracts related to the beef processing plant and at no time did anyone try to influence him regarding the awarding of such contracts.”
“If anyone defrauded the taxpayers of the state of Mississippi, they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.
Moultrie’s plea comes with less than three months left in Musgrove’s U.S. Senate bid. He faces Republican Roger Wicker in November to determine who will fill the rest of a six-year term vacated by Trent Lott.
Faulty equipment and lack of operating funds shut the 140,000-square-foot plant in 2004, just three months after it opened. Nearly 400 people were left without jobs. Mississippi taxpayers were stuck with $55 million in a state-backed loan and other expenses.
Sean Carothers, whose company built the beef plant, pleaded guilty in 2007 to paying kickbacks to the owner and was sentenced to 21 months in prison.
He apparently had been prepared to testify against Moultrie and others who are still set for trial later this month.
Moultrie and two other Georgia businessmen were charged in a 16-count indictment, including one count of conspiracy to corruptly influence a public official and 15 counts of mail fraud. Charles Morehead, 57, of Lilburn and Nixon Cawood, 58, of Woodstock are set to be tried on Aug. 25