WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A federal investigation into fraud and corruption in the 2010 election of District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray netted its fourth guilty plea on Tuesday.
Vernon Hawkins, formerly a top city administrator and field worker in Gray’s successful bid to win city hall in 2010, pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement, and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors probing Mayor Gray’s campaign, local TV stations reported.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been slowly building a case against close aides and associates of the Democratic mayor for running an illicit financing network for years to win his election and oust his predecessor Adrian Fenty.
Gray has said he knew nothing of the secret campaign. As the FBI probe gathers speed and his closest adviser to date is linked to illegal activities, the mayor has not yet announced whether he will seek a second term in 2014.
According to a document filed in court, Hawkins told a local caterer who worked on part of Gray's "Get Out the Vote" campaign, to leave town for an extended period to avoid federal investigators’ questions.
Hawkins told federal investigators last year that he had no knowledge of someone being intentionally sent away. But the information presented to a grand jury alleged that Hawkins gave an unidentified individual money in Dec. 2011 to leave the area.
The money allegedly came from Eugenia Harris, another campaign aide who pleaded guilty last year to directing $653,000 in off-the-books funds from a D.C. businessman to the campaign. Two other campaign workers have agreed to plea deals over their handling of campaign funds.
Asked in court on Tuesday about paying someone to leave town, Hawkins told the judge, "I did make that mistake," according to NBC Channel 4 news.