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Corruption

State Rep. Rogers’ assistant indicted on fraud related to kickback scheme

A 21-count indictment filed this week in United States District Court charges Varrie Johnson Kindall, 58, of Chelsea.

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An assistant to State Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with schemes to defraud the Jefferson County Community Service Fund.

A 21-count indictment filed this week in United States District Court charges Varrie Johnson Kindall, 58, of Chelsea, with one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, 14 counts of wire fraud, three counts of mail fraud, one count of money laundering, and two counts of obstruction of justice. The charges arise from an investigation that led to the indictment and guilty plea of Rep. Fred L. Plump, Jr., D-Birmingham, who resigned from the Alabama House of Representatives before completing his inaugural term.

According to the indictment, in 2015 the Alabama Legislature passed Alabama Act No. 2015-226 (the “Act”) and authorized the Jefferson County Commission to levy and distribute a 1 percent sales tax and a 1 percent use tax to benefit the public welfare and enhance the education of the children of Jefferson County. Jefferson County began levying the new taxes in or about August 2017. The act required the County to distribute the tax revenue according to certain specified priorities, including paying debt incurred during school construction, increasing the county’s general fund, giving funds to each board of education serving students in the county, and for certain other purposes set forth in the act.

The act created the Jefferson County Community Service Fund, which was subsidized by approximately $3.6 million annually from the new taxes. During each fiscal year from 2018 to 2022, each representative was allocated approximately $100,000 and each senator was allocated approximately $240,000 from the fund.

Plump served as the executive director of the Piper Davis Youth Baseball League, a nonprofit organization that claimed to provide a positive sporting experience for inner city youth in Jefferson County. Defendant Varrie Johnson Kindall was Rogers’ personal and professional assistant. 

Between fiscal year 2018 and fiscal year 2022, Rogers was allocated approximately $500,000 by the fund. Rogers directed approximately $400,000 of those discretionary funds to Piper Davis. In turn, Plump gave approximately $200,000 to Kindall.

The indictment alleges that from about March 2019 through April 2023, Kindall conspired with Plump and others to defraud and obtain money from the fund. It is alleged that it was part of the conspiracy that Rogers, with Kindall’s assistance, recommended during each fiscal year that most of his allotment of fund money be paid to Piper Davis. In turn, Plump agreed to pay kickbacks to Kindall. Plump and Kindall submitted false and fraudulent information to the committee about Piper Davis’ intended use of fund money. Upon receipt and deposit of fund checks, Plump allegedly gave checks to Kindall for approximately one-half of the amount of fund money received by Piper Davis. On two occasions, Kindall allegedly engaged in money laundering by moving large sums of illegally obtained money between bank accounts.

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Additionally, the indictment alleges that, in 2019, Kindall committed wire fraud by assisting Rogers in directing fund money to an unnamed organization and then requiring an unnamed individual to pay kickbacks to her. The indictment alleges further that, after learning about the federal investigation into the fraud scheme, Kindall attempted to obstruct justice by asking that unnamed individual to give false information to federal agents and offering them additional grant money as a bribe.

The maximum penalty for the conspiracy and substantive fraud counts is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for money laundering is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for obstruction of justice is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for obstruction of justice by bribery is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation investigated the case. Assistant United States Attorneys George Martin and Catherine Crosby are prosecuting the case.

Correction: APR ran an incorrect picture with this story. We apologize for the mistake.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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