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Florida officials charged in $5M hurricane debris removal scheme

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The mayor of Lynn Haven, a city just north of Panama City, was arrested at her residence in Jacksonville and charged in the theft of $5 million in Hurricane Michael debris removal funds, prosecutors announced Wednesday.

Lynn Haven Mayor Margo Anderson and City Attorney Adam Albritton are the subjects of a 64-count indictment returned Tuesday by a federal grand jury in Panama City, according to court records. They were both arrested Wednesday morning. Albritton was arrested in Lynn Haven.

After Hurricane Michael Hit the Florida Panhandle in October 2018, prosecutors said Albritton and Anderson indefinitely extended a debris removal contract with a private company for the city. Both then had work done by the company at their homes, as well as the homes of friends and relatives, and charged it to the city, according to the indictment. Prosecutors said Anderson and Albritton also received kickbacks from projects that they approved.

Among other charges, the two have been accused of theft concerning federal programs and conspiring to commit wire fraud and honest services fraud.

“This case is an example of what happens when public servants becomes complicit in corrupt behavior rather than standing up to it,” Rachel L. Rojas, the special agent in charge of the FBI Jacksonville Division, said in a news release. “Anyone who puts personal greed above their responsibility to protect the public should be held accountable, and that is why rooting out corrupt public officials remains the FBI’s number one criminal investigative priority.”

Five others who previously pleaded guilty in the case are former City Manager Michael White, former Community Services Director David Horton, Erosion Control Specialist owner David White, ECS bookkeeper Shannon Rodriguez and Greenleaf Lawn Care of Bay County owner Joshua Anderson. They’re scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 29 in Tallahassee.

Court records didn’t list attorneys for Margo Anderson or Albritton who could comment.

Lynn Haven officials held an emergency meeting Wednesday afternoon to discuss the new arrests.

The Florida governor has the authority to suspend local elected officials charged with serious crimes, and a spokesman said his office was reviewing the mayor’s case. The city attorney wasn’t elected by voters and isn’t under the governor’s authority.

On Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis did suspend Anderson from office.