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Former Hillsborough Councilmember Indicted on Bribery Charges

The U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida announced this week that former Hillsborough councilman Kevin White has been indicted on ten felony counts. Charges include bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud and giving a false statement to an FBI agent. George Hondrellis of Tampa was also indicted.

If convicted on all ten counts, White faces a possible sentence of over 100 years in prison (if all sentences were to run consecutive to one another - which is unlikely even if he is found guilty).

The federal government also intends to forfeit money which is alleged to be traceable to proceeds of the offense.

Federal authorities claim that White abused his position as chairman of Hillsborough County's Public Transportation Commission, taking bribes in return for favors to a towing company.

White lost a re-election effort last November, the culmination of several years of legal trouble. Two years ago, a federal jury found White had sexually harassed a former aide. The harassment lawsuit and trial left White with $155,000 in legal bills.

Hondrellis is accused of bribing White in return for favorable treatment in the towing certificate application process. A certificate is required if a towing company wants a spot on the Tampa Police Department and county Sheriff's Department towing rotations. Hondrellis had allegedly been turned down for a certificate in the past because of his criminal record.

According to the indictment, Hondrellis met with an undercover informant back in 2009, talking about forming a towing company to get on the Tampa law enforcement rotation. Shortly thereafter, Hondrellis allegedly told the informant he had made a $2,000 loan to Gerald White, Kevin White's father. (In a case of strange timing, Gerald White died last month of a heart attack.)

According to the police informant, Hondrellis told the informant that White, who was then the chairman of the transportation commission, was "backing" him" in his efforts to get the towing company certified. Over several months, the informant met several times with Kevin White, Gerakd White and Hondrellis, says law enforcement. They claim that thousands of dollars in cash changed hands and Gerald White received a Lincoln Navigator.

The court documents indicate that the Hondrellis tow company had been formed by January 2010 but that one of the drivers was designated as "owner" to get the application through the PTC without raising concern about Hondrellis's criminal record.

White allegedly told Hondrellis and the informant their application "should fly through" the transportation commission. PTC records show the company, Tri-County Auto Towing Inc., was certified May 12, 2010.

According to an undercover agent who was introduced to White by the informant, White said that the towing company had been added to the police and sheriff's rotation. Neither agency found record of any such addition to their rotation.

After Tri-County was certified, the undercover agent suggested adding another towing business to the law enforcement rotation. White reportedly told the agent that it would cost $10,000.

Prosecutors say that there are audio and video tapes of several meetings between the informant and the undercover FBI agent.

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