Thursday, March 30, 2006

Secretly taped phone chat enters fraud case .... Falwell Ministries'

The January 2005 conversation was between Lynchburg Mayor Carl Hutcherson and Jerry Falwell Jr.

Federal agents secretly taped a telephone conversation between Lynchburg Mayor Carl Hutcherson and Jerry Falwell Jr. last year to determine Falwell Ministries' role in the mayor's federal fraud case, according to a motion filed Tuesday.

The result, the government says, is clear evidence that when Falwell Ministries donated $32,500 to Hutcherson's charity, it did so with the belief that the money was not a direct personal loan to the mayor.

Hutcherson's attorneys, John Fishwick and John Lichtenstein, saw a transcript of the telephone conversation for the first time Tuesday. They say it actually bolsters their case, but declined to elaborate.

"We have always anticipated that the contents of the conversation are supportive of our case," they wrote in a statement. "We can't wait for the jury to hear it."

Hutcherson is scheduled to stand trial April 24-28 on charges of mail and bank fraud, Social Security fraud, obstruction of justice and making false statements to an investigator.

The government has claimed that soon after Falwell Ministries donated money to Hutcherson's charity, Trinity New Life Community Development Corp., the mayor stole the money to pay back personal and business debts.

Hutcherson also is accused of creating fake meeting minutes to make it appear as if Trinity's board approved a personal loan from the charity's account to Hutcherson.

"Hutcherson never told the board about the Falwell loan, and never sought approval to receive a loan from Trinity CDC," the motion states.

In the early stages of the investigation, Hutcherson told investigators that Falwell Ministries donated the money to Trinity to help Lynchburg's inner city, but he soon changed his story to say he had solicited $80,000 from Falwell Ministries to pay his tax debt, documents show.

Finally, the motion claims, Hutcherson, who also owns a funeral home, told agents it was Jerry Falwell Jr.'s idea to "funnel the money through Trinity CDC to make a payment on the Funeral Home's debts."

Adding to that the fact that Hutcherson has a vote on the Lynchburg City Council, the government decided to investigate "the possibility that Mayor Hutcherson may have solicited a bribe in exchange for his influence and votes," the motion states.

On Jan. 27, 2005, FBI Special Agent Christian Pettyjohn recorded a conversation between Hutcherson and Falwell Jr. with only the mayor's knowledge.

According to a transcript of the conversation also filed Tuesday, Falwell Jr. told Hutcherson that the ministries frequently donated money to other churches and he saw nothing wrong with donating to Trinity. Then Falwell Jr. went on to say that if Trinity wanted to turn around and lend money to Hutcherson, so be it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is bad to listen in others' telephone conversations! ;)