AEP officials get two and a half years prison time

Published 10:04 pm Thursday, February 11, 2010


Staff Writer
Two men who invested in and promoted a company that sparked hope for the construction of an ethanol plant in Beaufort County have been sentenced to two and a half years in federal prison.
U.S. Attorney George Holding announced Wednesday that Judge Terrence Boyle sentenced David Lee Brady, 75, of Raleigh and James Albert Perry Jr., 62, of Wake Forest to prison terms.
Each man got 30 months behind bars followed by three years supervised release, a news release shows.
Brady was fined $60,000, while Perry got a fine of $10,000.
The two men pleaded guilty to “conspiracy to commit extortion and to corruptly give anything of value to a public official in connection with the business of a state government receiving federal funds,” the U.S. attorney’s office says.
“Perry, the former Mayor of Wake Forest, Brady, a successful businessman, and others formed a company named Agri-Ethanol Products LLC (AEP) for the purpose of building a $220 million ethanol production facility in Aurora, North Carolina,” the release says.
In order to build the facility, AEP needed to obtain environmental permits through the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Brady, Perry “and others entered into an agreement with a high-level DENR official named Boyce Hudson, who was then Senior Field Officer in DENR’s Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs Office, under which Hudson agreed to use his influence to assist AEP with permit issues in exchange for the promise of payments totaling approximately $196,000,” according to the release.
AEP never built the plant, and Hudson ended up with $5,000 of the money pledged by the two defendants, the release states.
Hudson pleaded guilty to extortion and money laundering and was sentenced to 40 months in prison, the U.S. attorney’s office reports.
“As the 30-month prison sentence (of Brady and Perry) reflects, the defendants attempted to gain a commercial advantage by bribing a public official,” the release quotes Holding as saying. “This type of buying and selling of official action must be stopped.”
AEP’s interest in Beaufort County was unveiled around five years ago.
At the time, it was reported the company’s project might inject $95 million into the local economy and bring 43 or more direct jobs in its first phase.
It was said AEP might buy up 200 acres of land in Aurora.
In April 2005, reports revealed that AEP had received an air-quality permit for the project.
Later, a federal investigation determined that Brady and Perry paid Hudson to expedite an air-quality permit, various news outlets reported.
“Obviously, it was a disappointment not to get the ethanol plant,” said Tom Thompson, Beaufort County’s economic developer. “I, in no way, condone bribing state officials. It’s kind of curious to me that Mr. Brady and all these other people are going to jail for bribing people. What are they bribing for? They can’t get permits.”
Thompson said he was as surprised as anyone when he read that Brady and Perry had been charged in connection with a federal investigation.
“Now, the strange thing is they never came to me and said, ‘Tom, we’re really having a problem with this (permit). Could you help by maybe contacting (state Sen. Marc) Basnight or somebody?”
Basnight serves Beaufort County in the Senate.
Thompson noted that environmental permitting in North Carolina “can be extremely costly and time-consuming, and extremely frustrating.”
A lot of smart people are going to jail for trying to do an end run around the complex permitting process, he pointed out.
Despite the hope initially generated by AEP’s interest, Thompson doesn’t believe an ethanol plant is in Beaufort County’s future.
“There was a limited window for building ethanol plants,” he said.
Demand for more such plants is dying off, according to Thompson.
“We’re not in the market anymore for ethanol,” he said.
Thompson added, “It’s a shame. (The plant) would have been a huge plant, and a big boon to our economy.”
It’s “very unfortunate to see what people will do for gain, to get an advantage,” said Al Klemm, a Beaufort County commissioner and a longtime volunteer with the county’s EDC.
“Ethanol’s sort of out of favor now,” Klemm said.
The county is more likely to see interest from wood-pellet manufacturers whose products can be used for fuel, he said.
“Ethanol didn’t turn out to be the big winner,” Klemm concluded.
Prosecutors say they have closed the AEP investigation, The Associated Press reported.