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Undercover agent: Cash I gave Kevin White wasn't for political campaign

TAMPA — The earring was gone. The baseball cap and golf shirt were replaced by a suit and tie. This time, the man Kevin White knew as Darryl Wilson had no envelope stuffed with cash.

As "Wilson" walked into court, it was the first time White, a former Hillsborough County commissioner, had seen him working in his day job: FBI agent.

The man prosecutors say handed White 50 $100 bills in a car outside a LongHorn Steakhouse in June 2010, posing as a businessman seeking White's help getting a towing license, took the stand Thursday in the fourth day of White's corruption trial.

Wilson's testimony — his real name is Darryl Williams — held none of the drama of the previous day, when jurors saw a video of him giving $5,000 to White. Williams simply confirmed for prosecutors his meetings with White and the payment of a total of $6,000 to the Democrat.

The former Army officer said he was recruited to work the case by the Tampa agent heading the investigation of White. That agent had been seeking an undercover African-American to win White's trust.

The agent would pose as somebody forming a towing company who needed White's influence with the Public Transportation Commission, which White chaired. His cover story was that the company needed a PTC license to be placed on a lucrative rotational towing list used by law enforcement.

Attorney John Richardson, representing White, asked about the total of $6,000 Williams gave to White in two separate meetings, suggesting the payments may have been campaign contributions and not bribes.

Did Williams use the word "contribution" in conversations with White?

"I'm sure that word was used," the FBI agent said.

Might he have called payments "campaign contributions?"

"Yes."

Was his "intent" to give White money for his campaign the night Williams paid him $1,000?

"That was not the purpose of me giving him money that night."

The attorney asked Williams whether the $1,000 payment to White was by cash or check.

"I gave him cash, sir," Williams said. "It was in an envelope. ... I believe he folded it up and put it in his pocket."

Richardson suggested to Williams that White, who is heard in tapes boasting how he got the towing application approved, was simply projecting an image of a politician who got things done.

"No, sir," Williams said. "I saw him getting things done ... that he was expecting to get compensated for."

Towing company owner Peter Rockefeller, the informer who first brought White to the attention of the FBI, also testified Thursday. He recounted urging an agent to investigate the PTC.

Rockefeller acknowledged he had never done anything like that before, but was angered by other towing company operators with an in at the PTC.

"I like ... things to be fair."

Prosecutors played several secretly recorded tapes in which Rockefeller talked about White and the PTC with George Hondrellis, owner of Tampa City Towing. Hondrellis is a co-defendant who will be tried separately.

In one tape, Hondrellis talks about the help White might give them getting a PTC license.

"I knew right away he was on the cuff because he really don't wanna work on the system," Hondrellis said. "He don't give a damn like all the others."

In another conversation, Hondrellis explained how he paid money to White's father, the late Gerald White Sr., rather than to the commissioner directly.

"I loaned his dad money," Hondrellis told Rockefeller. "It's got nothing to do with" Kevin White . . . "This way here, I can't get in trouble. All I did was make Gerald a loan. . . . I didn't give the commissioner no money. . . . You just can't go to him and do that."

Defense attorneys portray Hondrellis as mentally unstable, his word untrustworthy.

Hondrellis is currently undergoing a mental health evaluation ordered by the judge in the case.

As Rockefeller drove away from a meeting with Hondrellis, the FBI bug he was wearing still recording, he sighs deeply. "Oh, my God," he said on the tape. "He's . . . nuts."

Testimony continues today. White, 46, faces 10 felony charges, including conspiracy, bribery and lying to the FBI.

Undercover agent: Cash I gave Kevin White wasn't for political campaign 11/03/11 [Last modified: Thursday, November 3, 2011 11:40pm]
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