A former Birmingham city councilman and Jefferson County commissioner last week was found guilty of looting a charity called Computer Help for Kids of more than $162,000.
A federal jury found John Katopodis guilty on 97 counts of mail and wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud and steal the funds from the county and the charity. The charity’s mission was to repair used computers donated by area businesses and distribute them to disadvantaged children.
From 2002 through 2007, the majority of the charity’s funding came from the Jefferson County Commission — $815,000.
Katopodis spent the charity’s money at casinos in Louisiana and Mississippi and withdrew cash from automatic teller machines in various cities.
He transferred money from the charity’s checking account into his personal checking account to pay personal credit card charges, and to pay for airline tickets and travel expenses for himself and for friends on trips to Cairo, Egypt and Nassau, Bahamas, investigators said.
The case is the latest involving a Jefferson County commissioner.
Former commissioner Larry Langford, now mayor of Birmingham, is awaiting trial set for Aug. 31 on pay-to-play charges related to the county’s sewer bond deals along with Montgomery bond dealer William Blount, and Albert LaPierre, a lobbyist and friend of Blount and Langford.
Former county commissioner Mary Buckelew pleaded guilty to one count of obstructing justice after she admitted that she lied to a federal grand jury about receiving lavish gifts in New York City and in Birmingham from Blount, who was a banker on the county’s sewer bond deals. Buckelew is expected to testify in Langford’s case.