TALLAHASSEE, FLA. (WMBB) — The former mayor of Lynn haven plead guilty to a single charge of making a false statement to a federal agency Thursday.
Margo Anderson, 68, now faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine. However, sources close to the case said federal sentencing guidelines actually state that she likely faces six months or less in prison, and it’s possible she will not spend one night behind bars.
Under the terms of the deal, prosecutors agreed that her sentence would be reduced because she accepted responsibility for her crime.
Anderson is set to be sentenced on May 5.
Anderson agreed to the guilty plea after prosecutors said they would drop every other charge or possible future charge in the corruption case against her. It was a massive win for a politician who once faced 64 charges of bribery and corruption.
“This case has been pending against Margo Anderson for over two and a half years. There have been four separate indictments against her over this period from the original indictment in the summer of 2020, charging her with sixty-four separate felony crimes then to a first superseding indictment in March of 2021, the second superseding indictment in November 2021, and the third and final superseding indictment filed last October, charging just two counts,” said W. Robert Vezina, Anderson’s attorney. “One of those is an alleged corruption conspiracy with James Finch, to include advancing the 17th Street Project as well as completing the city’s infrastructure work plan using the city’s Half-Cent Sales Tax revenue. The two projects I mentioned were completed on time and within budget. Mr. Finch, his company, Phoenix Construction, and the ‘free’ motor home seized by the government was not free. It will be released by the government and soon parked back at Anderson’s house and location. The government is dismissing those two counts, those two charges, and will serve no other charges.”
Vezina added that Margo worked hard for the city, “And finally, Margo Anderson, as Mayor Anderson was the most popular mayor in the history of Lynn Haven. She was a champion for the citizens of her beloved hometown, and she got things done in the best interest of the community,” he said. “As her attorney and as her friend, I hope Margo Anderson feels vindicated today. She should.”
As part of the deal, Anderson will also get back her infamous RV which prosecutors originally said was a bribe delivered to her by James Finch, the owner of Phoenix Construction.
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors will be able to say that eight of the nine people they charged in the corruption probe plead guilty and face criminal sentences.
The wild card is Finch who is the last remaining criminal defendant in the case. Finch was accused of bribing Anderson and former City Commissioner Antonius Barnes.
Barnes admitted that he took a $45,000 loan from Finch in order to start an insurance business while serving as a city commissioner. However, Barnes testified at a hearing in December that while he took the money and never paid it back, Finch did not bribe him.
Like Anderson, Barnes was allowed to plead to a lesser charge and never admitted guilt in a bribery scheme.
Finch is scheduled for a trial at the end of the month but has a hearing on Friday that could offer some clarity to his case.