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Thursday, July 11, 2019

New JeffCo Sheriff+AG Marshall+Bingo+Frozen Assets=LAWSUIT!

BLOGGER COMMENTS:  It's complicated.  If you can wade your way through this article in AL.COM, this is at the bottom, a spat between Sheriff Mark Pettway and Attorney General Steve Marshall, both of whom ought to know better.  Marshall wants to clean up bingo halls that are actually mini-casinos (good for him) and Sheriff Pettway wants to clean up street crimes (good for him).  You have to worry about intentions tho.  Read on.  Draw your own conclusions.  Your opinions are welcome in the blog comments section.  

Nearly a quarter of a million dollars belonging to Bruce Pettway, the brother of the Jefferson County sheriff, has been frozen by state officials, and the brother’s attorneys are suing to get that money back.
Court documents filed Wednesday in federal court claim Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s Office illegally seized $240,000 from a BBVA Bank account belonging to Bruce Pettway’s brokerage and consulting firm, “ostensibly because of a $15,500 deposit into the account from bingo operations in Jefferson County.”Marshall declined to comment on the lawsuit.
In March, a public feud emerged between Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway and Marshall. Sheriff Pettway, who took office in January as the first black sheriff of the state’s largest county, has repeatedly said that it’s not his job to “hunt down” electronic bingo operators, pointing out he’s more focused on stopping serious crimes like human trafficking and gun violence.
The sheriff’s words were in response to a letter sent to him by Marshall where the attorney general reminded Pettway of his enforcement role as sheriff. In that letter, Marshall requested Pettway advise him, Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr and Bessemer Cutoff District Attorney Lynneice Washington if he learns of any electronic bingo halls opening or planning to open in the county.
Washington had sent cease and desist letters to two bingo halls – Super Highway Bingo on Bessemer Superhighway and Fun-N-Games in Brighton – on the grounds that the businesses are operating illegally.
In April, at least 18 people were arrested in a series of raids by Marshall’s office at Jefferson County gambling facilities. The raids happened at Spin It & Win It in Graysville, Super Highway Bingo in Brighton, Southwind Bingo in Midfield and Fun N Games Arcade, also in Brighton.
While the facilities are commonly referred to as bingo halls, Marshall said that is not accurate. “Bingo is played on a card with a group of people,’’ Marshall told AL.com in April. “These are slot machines located at small casinos.”
The four search warrants led to the seizure of more than 1,100 electronic bingo machines, records and an unspecified amount of money. Sources tell AL.com at $300,000 was confiscated, but Marshall has not confirmed that tally.
About the same time, it was reported that Bruce Pettway had applied for a bingo license to put a bingo hall in the empty former Lowe’s building in Graysville. Bruce Pettway later dropped the application.
The new lawsuit, filed by Bruce Pettway’s lawyers U.W. Clemon and Rodrick J. Barge, names as defendants Marshall and BBVA. The funds at the center of the suit were in Bruce Pettway’s Employer Benefits Consulting LLC bank account in Jefferson County, yet were seized through a Madison County branch of BBVA. EBC, founded in 1998, is a full-service brokerage, consulting and management company for employers. Its services include business strategies, cost mitigating strategies, consulting services and benefits brokering.
In the suit, the attorneys question why the assets were seized through a Madison County bank branch. Bruce Pettway has never lived in Madison County, nor does he have any clients there.
Earlier this year, according to the lawsuit, Bruce Pettway provided consulting services to Brighton Ventures and Brighton Ventures II, both Jefferson County corporation that have licenses to conduct bingo operations issued by the City of Brighton. He received a one-time payment of $15,500 for his consulting services to Brighton Ventures, the suit states.
As of June 12, 2019, there was a balance of approximately $240,000 in EBC’s checking account at BBVA. The following day, Bruce Pettway was notified by the bank that his business’s checking account had by frozen by the Attorney General’s Office and that he would no longer have access to the account. The suit claims Bruce Pettway was never informed by the AG’s office of the seizure.
The lawsuit describes Bruce Pettway as the confidant of his sheriff brother and notes that he helped to organize and significantly finance Sheriff Pettway’s campaign. “In various public statements since the investiture of Sheriff Pettway in January 2019, General Marshall has voiced criticism of him over his failure to use sheriff’s funds to enforce the state’s misdemeanor gambling laws,’’ the suit reads. “General Marshal has been quoted as saying, ‘It is my hope again that the sheriff does his job and that’s to be able to enforce the law in Jefferson County.’’’
“In a meeting with the Auburn University’s SGA Lobby Board on April 11, 2019, General Marshall criticized Sheriff Pettway and told the students that he would, ‘handle the sheriff.’’’
It was after that, the suit states, that Marshall froze the business’s account. “EBC will surely fail as a business if it is denied access to its bank account and not allowed to pay its bills as they fall due.’’ The attorneys also stated that Marshall has allowed an electronic bingo operation in the majority-white Houston County in southeast Alabama.
Under Alabama law, the only gambling proceeds that may be forfeited are gambling machines or gambling records, vehicles possessed or used in violation of the gambling laws, or money used as bets or stakes in gambling activity. The maximum fine under Alabama law for promoting gambling or conspiracy to promote gambling, both Class A misdemeanors, is $6,000. Bruce Pettway nor his company have been charged with any crime.
“The seizure by the attorney general of the $240,000 bank account over a $15,5000 dispute is grossly disproportionate to the fine which may be imposed for violating the state’s gambling law or conspiring to do so,’’ the suit states.
Jefferson County sheriff’s spokesman Capt. David Agee said, “Bruce Pettway is a businessman and private citizen. He should not be unjustly targeted because of who he is related to.”

2 comments:

  1. As an elected official, you cannot pick and choose what law you want to enforce. It doesn't matter if you consider it insignificant compared to other crimes. The law is the law no matter what. Just another form of corruption.

    Also, do you know if Picken's County sheriff will be able to keep his state pension? I'm assuming Anna will be able to keep her pension too?

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  2. Hey, long time reader/lurker. we've spoken in the past, too. I think you should seriously consider running for public office. My family would support you.

    ReplyDelete