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Tallahassee businessman gets new superseding indictment from federal grand jury

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Posted at 5:39 PM, Oct 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-02 17:40:53-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A federal grand jury has returned a nine-count superseding indictment against Tallahassee businessman John "J.T." Burnette.

In December 2018, a federal grand jury charged Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox and his longtime business partner Paige Carter-Smith in a 44 count indictment for conspiring to operate a racketeering enterprise that engaged in acts of bank fraud, extortion, honest-services fraud and bribery.

That indictment also charged Maddox and Carter-Smith with substantive counts of bank fraud, false statements to financial institutions, extortion, honest-services fraud, use of interstate facilities to facilitate bribery, false statements to federal officers, conspiracy to interfere with the lawful function of the IRS, and filing false tax returns.

In May 2019, the grand jury returned a 47 count superseding indictment adding Burnette as a defendant and charging him with participating in the racketeering conspiracy and extortion, honest services mail fraud, the use of facilities in interstate commerce to facilitate bribery, and making false statements to federal officers.

Maddox and Carter-Smith subsequently pleaded guilty to two counts of honest-services fraud and one count of conspiring to interfere with the lawful function of the IRS. The government agreed at sentencing to dismiss other charges filed against Maddox and Carter-Smith in that first superseding indictment.

The grand jury returned a nine-count second superseding indictment against Burnette only. The charges in the first superseding indictment to which Maddox and Carter-Smith pleaded guilty are undisturbed by the return of the second superseding indictment against Burnette.

The second superseding indictment does not include any new counts against Burnette.

However, the second superseding indictment alleges additional acts of racketeering conspiracy. Specifically, the second superseding indictment alleges that, in early 2014, Burnette caused a company to pay $110,000 in exchange for Maddox declaring a conflict and not voting at a Tallahassee City Commission meeting.

At that meeting, the commission was slated to vote on an extension sought by a hotel development group to allow more time to meet certain city requirements to build a hotel close to a downtown hotel owned by Burnette. Maddox’s failure to participate resulted in a 2-2 tie vote by the commission that denied the hotel development group the extension it sought and ended its project.

Burnette has waived arraignment on the second superseding indictment. The trial of this case is scheduled for Nov. 4.

The maximum terms of imprisonment for the offenses are as follows:

• 20 years: Racketeering Conspiracy, Extortion, and Honest Services Fraud

• 5 years: Use of Interstate Facilities in Furtherance of Bribery, Making False Statements to a Federal Officer