FORT LAUDERDALE — Former Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion pleaded guilty to a state public corruption charge on Thursday, April 1, and will soon be in prison.
“The ex-commissioner’s plea agreement calls for him to be adjudicated guilty of Unlawful Compensation, making him a convicted felon, Broward State Attorney’s Office spokesman Ron Ishoy said in an April 1 press release.
“By pleading guilty, the state is expected to deny Eggelletion his state pension. Eggelletion also will be sentenced to two and a half years in prison to be served concurrently with a federal sentence for illegally laundering money in a private offshore business deal unrelated to his position on the county commission.”
Eggelletion could have been sentenced to as many as 15 years in prison. After entering his guilty plea before Broward Circuit Court Judge Michel Usan, Eggelletion expressed regret, and new found religion, according to news reports.
“I have a lot of regrets, obviously,” Eggelletion offered. “Through all of this, it has brought me much closer to my savior. I just thank God for his blessings. He's chastising me severely right now, but I give Him all of the praise and honor.”
Eggelletion is scheduled to surrender to authorities with the Federal Bureau of Prisons on May 3, to begin serving his federal and state prison sentences. The 30-month prison sentences will run concurrently and will be coterminus.
Coterminus means that both sentences will end at the same time. Eggelletion is battling alcoholism and has applied to the Federal Bureau of Prisons to be admitted into a substance abuse program. If he is accepted and successfully completes such a program, he could have as much as one year knocked off his sentence under federal prison guidelines.
Under those conditions, Eggelletion could serve as little as 18 months on both the state and federal sentences.
“The public has a right to be represented by public officials who take office for the sole purpose of representing the people, not themselves,” Broward State Attorney Mike Satz said in a prepared statement released after the court hearing. “From the disclosures Mr. Eggelletion has made to our prosecutors, he chose to serve himself rather than the public, and in doing so, he violated the public’s trust.”
The plea deal with state prosecutors stems from Eggelletion’s Nov. 12, 2009 arrest, when he was charged with one count of receiving unlawful compensation, a felony. The charge followed a six-year investigation by the Broward State Attorney’s Office.
The case centered on bribes Eggelletion received from father and son developers Bruce and Shawn Chait. The bribes were in exchange for Eggelletion’s support of projects the duo had pending before the county commission.
Eggelletion initially pleaded not guilty to the charge, but later began cooperating with prosecutors. He acknowledged in a sworn statement that he accepted an $8,400 golf and country club membership, and $25,000 in cash from the developers, who own Coral Springs-based Prestige Homes of South Florida.
Eggelletion also stated that he received an additional $3,200 bribe, which was stuffed inside his golf bag, and which was supposed to go toward the $8,400 country club membership.
As a result of his testimony, Bruce Chait, president of Prestige Homes, and his son, Shawn, were arrested Dec. 11, 2009. Each man was charged with one count of bribery and one count of unlawful compensation.
Additionally, Shawn Chait was charged with one count of perjury for denying that he paid $3,200 toward Eggelletion’s golf club membership. The cases against the pair are still pending.
Eggelletion, 60, of Lauderdale Lakes, was also sentenced on March 12 in an unrelated federal probe. In that case, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Middlebrooks sentenced Eggelletion to serve 30 months in a federal penitentiary. The judge handed down the sentence following Eggelletion’s guilty plea on one count of money laundering. He must also pay a $10,000 fine, and will remain on three years of supervised parole after he is released in that case.
In the federal case, Eggelletion was arrested Sept. 24, 2009 at his home after a five-year undercover FBI operation. Eggelletion admitted accepting $23,000 from undercover agents who he believed were corrupt investment brokers.
The undercover agents paid Eggelletion in exchange for his help in laundering $900,000 from what he believed were the proceeds from a European investment scheme.
Eggelletion then recruited others who set up offshore Bahamian bank accounts, and who wired money into those accounts. The agents also donated $5,000 to a youth golf charity Eggelletion formed.
Prosecutors say Eggelletion has been cooperating with them, and that he has provided crucial information on other people that has spawned numerous other, ongoing criminal investigations.
“Joe is pleased. We think it’s a fair sentence in light of the circumstances,” said Johnny McCray Jr., Eggelletion’s attorney. “He didn’t get off easy. He stands to lose his pension and he is a double convicted felon. Here is a man that’s well educated, and he did something foolish, and now his career is over. He has really suffered a lot.”
Photo: Josephus Eggelletion