Thompson Pleads Guilty To Fraud

By Bill Dries

Former Shelby County Commissioner Bruce Thompson pleaded guilty today to a federal fraud charge in a corruption case involving the construction contract to build three Memphis city schools.

The plea came on Thompson’s first appearance before U.S. District Judge Jon P. McCalla on the corruption charges he was indicted on in November.

Thompson specifically admitted that he took $7,000 from two construction firms, H&M Construction Co. of Jackson, Tenn., and Salton-Fox Construction of Memphis, after he told H&M executives that because of his position as a County Commissioner, he could control votes on the Memphis school board. To do that, Thompson told the construction executives that he needed $7,000 to make campaign contributions to four school board members in 2004.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim DiScenza made clear at the hearing that the four school board members mentioned by Thompson but not identified in the hearing were not aware of the deal and none is charged with taking the money.

“I’m not sure what happened to all of it,” Thompson said in court when asked by McCalla where the money went.

Thompson was also paid more than $200,000 as a consultant to both construction companies. But the charge he pleaded guilty to does not involve that part of the arrangement.

Thompson is scheduled for sentencing June 6. Under terms of the plea deal he can withdraw his guilty plea if McCalla sentences him to more than a year and a day in prison.

Look for a more detailed version in Thursday's edition of The Daily News.