The Nashville City Paper reports a big bust in Tennessee this morning.
State Sen. Ward Crutchfield (D-Chattanooga), Sen. John Ford (D-Memphis), Sen. Kathryn Bowers (D-Memphis) and state Rep. Chris Newton (R-Cleveland) were arrested by the FBI near the state Capitol this morning and led away in handcuffs.
The four were arrested under the federal Hobbs Act, which covers extortion by the wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear.
The arrests apparently involve a bill [PDF] sponsored in the House by Newton and in the Senate by Crutchfield and Ford that involved the sale of surplus computers and electronic equipment. Newton withdrew the bill from committee consideration Wednesday.A quick read of the bill indicates that only “qualified electronic recycling” companies would be eligible for state contracts to dispose of unwanted computer equipment.
- The department or agency which declares the computer and electronic equipment to be surplus may be charged a fee to cover the cost of disposing of such equipment pursuant to subdivision (2). The amount of the fee shall be determined by the board of standards.
(6) All computer and electronic equipment generated by the state which is not disposed of pursuant to subdivision (2) of this subsection shall be disposed of by a qualified electronic recycling company by means of a negotiated contract for sale pursuant to Section 12-2-403(a)(4). In order to be eligible to participate under this subdivision, the electronic recycling company shall have conducted business for a period of at least one (1) year prior to participating under this section. The electronic recycling company may purchase outdated or surplus computer and electronic equipment from the state for fair market valuation of the equipment.Perhaps the FBI ran a sting where they posed as a electronic recycling company eager to get state law changed to funnel business their way.
Tennessee is has a blogging Congressman (Rep. Stacey Campfield), who reports that the rumor at the capital is there are more arrests in progress.
Nashville blogger Bill Hobbs has more on the story.
Update: Via Michelle Malkin comes links to the grand jury indictments at Nashville’s NewsChannel 5. The NewsChannel 5 link has been slipstream updated throughout the day. It turns out I was right on the money about the sting operation. The FBI established a fake company called E-Cycle Management, Inc., to run the scam.