Tuesday, January 16, 2018
News Roundup

Federal prosecutors tell ex-Hillsborough Commissioner Kevin White: Pay back bribes

TAMPA — The government wants the bribes back.

Federal prosecutors have filed a motion in the corruption case of former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White seeking a $9,000 judgment against him. White was convicted in November of seven charges, including conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud and lying to the FBI.

The $9,000 represents the total in bribes, prosecutors say, that were paid either to White, his late father Gerald White or co-defendant George Hondrellis during the course of an FBI sting.

White's attorney, Grady Irvin Jr., declined to comment Wednesday. The motion, filed Tuesday, said Irvin does not object to a $6,000 judgment, but he opposed the extra $3,000 because that money went to either White's father or Hondrellis.

U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill said Wednesday that the government "will be seeking the return of taxpayer funds that we utilized during the course of the investigation."

The government has been unable to locate the money or anything purchased with it after White's arrest in June, the motion said. A 2003 Lincoln Navigator given to White's father during the investigation has already been turned over, according to prosecutors.

A judge is likely to decide the issue when White is sentenced March 12.

Prosecutors said White traded his influence as chairman of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission for cash. White was accused of taking bribes from towing company operators to help them get PTC licenses qualifying them for placement on a lucrative list of firms used by law enforcement.

But one of those towing company operators ended up working for the FBI as an informer. Eventually, an undercover FBI agent posing as a businessman entered the case and paid White $6,000.

Included was one exchange of $5,000 between the agent and White that was videotaped inside a car, and a juror said it played a key role in convicting White.

Hondrellis, owner of Tampa City Towing, has not yet gone to trial. A judge has ruled him mentally incompetent and he is in federal custody getting treatment.

Times staff writer Sue Carlton contributed to this report. William R. Levesque can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3432.

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