Alabama Legislature

Fairfield Rep. Plump Resigns as He Faces Conspiracy and Obstruction of Justice Charges

Alabama Rep. Fred Plump, D-Fairfield. (Source: Alabama Legislature)

State Rep. Fred L. Plump Jr., D-Fairfield, has been charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice and has agreed to resign from the Alabama House of Representatives.

Plump is accused of conspiring to funnel taxpayer money from a community service fund to a nonprofit of which he was executive director, then paying about half of the money in kickbacks to another individual.

U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona made the announcement Tuesday along with Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Carlton L. Peeples and James Dorsey, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation special agent in charge.

A charging document filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court charged Plump, 76, with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of obstruction of justice. These charges arise from an investigation of wrongdoing in connection with the Jefferson County Community Service Fund, which receives money from a tax passed in 2015 that allows each of the county’s House and Senate members to direct funds to programs that “benefit the public welfare and enhance the education of the children of Jefferson County.”

According to the plea agreement, also filed Tuesday, Plump agreed to plead guilty to the charges, pay restitution of at least $200,000 to the fund, and resign from office immediately upon entering his guilty plea. The court will set a date for Plump to enter his guilty plea.

Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens and Commission President Pro-Tempore Joe Knight issued a joint statement today in response to the charges.

“The Jefferson County Commission applauds law enforcement and their investigation of the Jefferson County Community Service Fund,” the release read. “This fund was created by an act of the state legislature and the dollars come from the sales tax disbursement that the county began levying in August 2017. The checks and balances that were put into place by the legislature appear to have worked. The commission is surprised by this turn of events and is closely monitoring the situation.”

Substance of the Charges

According to the charging instrument, 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.

Between fiscal year 2018 and fiscal year 2022, a longstanding House member identified as “Legislator No. 1” was allocated approximately $500,000 by the fund. Legislator No. 1 directed approximately $400,000 of those discretionary funds to the Piper Davis league. In turn, Plump gave approximately $200,000 to someone identified as “Individual No. 1,” who was Legislator No. 1’s assistant.

Rep. John Rogers, D-Jefferson County, told Tuesday afternoon that he is Legislator No. 1 referred to in the charging instrument, but he said he got none of the money. He was interviewed by federal investigators, he said. He has not been charged with any crime in relation to the case.

The charging instrument alleges that from about March 2019 and continuing through April 2023, Plump conspired with others to defraud and obtain money from the fund. It is alleged that it was part of the conspiracy that Legislator No. 1, Rogers, recommended during each fiscal year that most of his allotment of fund money be paid to the Piper Davis league.

In turn, Plump agreed to pay kickbacks to Individual No. 1, an assistant to Rogers. Plump submitted false and fraudulent information to the Jefferson County Community Service Committee, which doles out money from the fund and monitors its use, about the Piper Davis league’s intended use of fund money. Upon receipt and deposit of fund checks, Plump gave checks to Individual No. 1 for approximately one-half of the amount of fund money received by the league.

The charging document alleges further that Plump, after being interviewed by agents and served with a grand jury subpoena, attempted to obstruct the investigation by sending Individual No. 1 a text stating “Red Alert” and meeting with the assistant to warn her about the investigation.

The community service fund was created after the Alabama Legislature in 2015 passed an act that authorized the Jefferson County Commission to levy and distribute a 1% sales tax and a 1% 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 about August 2017.

The act required the county to distribute the tax revenue according to 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. Other approved uses included the support of public entities and projects such as schools, libraries, museums, parks, zoos, neighborhood associations, athletic facilities, youth sports associations, road construction, the performing arts, police departments, the sheriff’s office, fire departments and certain nonprofit entities.

The community service fund received approximately $3.6 million annually from the new taxes. Under the act, the four members of the committee were elected by members of the Jefferson County House and Senate delegations.

Each representative and senator representing Jefferson County could make recommendations to the committee of expenditures from their allotted amount of the fund.

The organization receiving the funds was required to submit information about the organization and confirm that it intended to use the money for a public purpose. 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.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys George Martin and Catherine Crosby are prosecuting the case.