ORLANDO, Fla. — Alabama federal Judge Scott Coogler Friday sentenced former Jefferson County Commission president Larry Langford to 15 years in federal prison for his role in a long-running play-to-play scheme centering around the county’s now-failed $3.2 billion of sewer warrants and swaps.
Federal prosecutors had recommended a sentence between 24 and 30 years.
Langford, 63, was convicted of taking $241,000 in cash, loan payoffs, clothing, and jewelry he solicited from Montgomery investment banker Bill Blount and lobbyist Al LaPierre. Many of the bribes occurred when Langford could use his influence during the refinancing of the county’s sewer warrants.
After Langford left the commission, he was elected mayor of Birmingham. He was removed from office upon his conviction.
Coogler also ordered that Langford pay $119,985 to the Internal Revenue Service for taxes he failed to pay on bribes, and that he forfeit another $241,843. Prosecutors did not recommend any restitution and said that issue should be left for civil courts to determine.
A jury last October found Langford guilty on 60 federal charges stemming from his days on the Jefferson County Commission when he orchestrated the refinancing of the sewer debt from fixed rate to variable and auction rate, then entered swap agreements.
In the financial market meltdown, interest rates soared to penalty levels and accelerated principal payments were required that the sewer system could not pay. That led to defaults on some payments.
The debt still has not been restructured, raising the possibility that the county could be forced to file what would be the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy.
Langford was found guilty on 29 counts of bribery, four counts of money laundering, one count of conspiracy, five counts of mail fraud, 18 counts of wire fraud, and three counts of filing false tax returns. In January, Coogler denied Langford’s motion for a new trial but his attorney said that an appeal of the conviction would be filed after Langford’s sentencing.
All three men were named in a 101-county indictment, but Langford maintained his innocence.
Blount and LaPierre entered agreements with federal prosecutors shortly before trial and had numerous charges knocked off for their cooperation, which included testifying against Langford at trial.
Last week, Coogler sentenced Blount, 56, to four years and four months in prison for one count each of conspiracy and bribery. LaPierre, 59, was sentenced to four years on one count each of conspiracy and filing a false tax return.
Blount forfeited $1 million and he was prohibited from having any securities-related or advisory business with a government, and he must get court permission to practice law again.
LaPierre forfeited $371,932 and was ordered to pay $98,433 in back federal taxes. He was prohibited from being a lobbyist or serving as a consultant to any government.