Former BVU Official, Bristol Mayor Pleads Guilty
ABINGDON, VA—The former Mayor of Bristol, Virginia and a former member of the Board of Directors of Bristol Utilities Authority (BVU), pled guilty today in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Abingdon to charges related to the illegal sale of NASCAR tickets.
Paul Hurley, 74, of Bristol, Va., was a member of the Board of Directors for BVU from 2009-2014. Prior to that, the defendant was a member of the Bristol, Virginia Economic Development Committee and also served as both a member of the Bristol, Virginia City Council and as the city’s Mayor. Today in District Court, Hurley waived his right to be indicted and pled guilty to two-count Information charging him with one count of mail fraud and one count of lying to a Federal grand jury.
“Mr. Hurley abused his position of trust with the Bristol Virginia Utilities Authority for his own personal benefit and then lied to the grand jury to cover up his crimes,” United States Attorney Anthony P. Giorno said today. “This is a sad and tragic case where an individual with a history of public service has, by his actions, forfeited his job, his reputation, his standing in the community and potentially his freedom for a few thousand dollars. I commend the efforts of the investigating agencies that led to these convictions, which should serve as a warning to others that criminal conduct by white collar professionals will not be tolerated.”
“The oath pledged for committing oneself to public service and that of one sworn before a federal grand jury is no different; both expect behavior beyond reproach, integrity when faced with dilemmas and consequences when either is breached,” Adam S. Lee, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division said today. “Mr. Hurley will soon face consequences, not yet determined by the courts, for his repeated behavior of using property owned by BVU for his personal gain and then lying about it, while under oath, to a federal grand jury. Public corruption remains the Bureau’s top criminal priority, and we encourage citizens to report unethical and illegal activity to law enforcement as soon as they become aware.”
According to evidence presented at today’s guilty plea hearing by Assistant United States Attorney Zachary Lee, and an agreed upon statement of facts filed with the court, between 2009 and 2014 the defendant served as the chairman of the City of Bristol’s Economic Development Committee. Acting in that role, Hurley obtained NASCAR tickets for two annual races held in Bristol, Va. Those tickets were purchased by BVU at Hurley’s request, for what he said would be used for “economic development” purposes.
Hurley claimed the tickets purchased for him by BVU would be given, free of charge, to representatives of business who showed an interest in re-locating businesses to Bristol, Virginia. However, Hurley admitted today that he lied when he claimed the tickets would be used for economic reasons and instead he sold those NASCAR tickets to friends, ticket scalpers and others, all for his own personal, financial benefit.
In all, Hurley sold at least 50 NASCAR tickets provided to him free of charge for economic purposes by BVU. The value of the tickets sold by Hurley was more than $5,000.
On July 20, 2015, Hurley appeared as a witness before a federal grand jury investigating practices at BVU. Hurley, being a former Chairman of the Board of the Directors of BVU, was called as a witness to determine if he had knowledge or involvement in corruption at BVU, specifically regarding the purchasing of NASCAR tickets by the utilities authority. After being placed under oath, Hurley made false declarations to the grand jury in response to questions regarding the practice of BVU purchasing and distributing NASCAR tickets, including his own actions relating to his use of tickets for economic development purposes. When specifically asked if he ever sold the tickets, Hurley said “I don’t recall that.”
At sentencing, Hurley faces a maximum possible penalty of up to 20 years in Federal prison on the mail fraud charge and a maximum possible penalty of up to five years in Federal prison on the perjury charge. The defendant has also agreed to pay $5,000 in restitution to Bristol Virginia Utilities Authority and to forfeit an additional $10,000.
The investigation of the case, which remains ongoing, is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Zachary Lee will prosecute the case for the United States.