Longtime Alabama state lawmaker John Rogers to resign, admit to federal fraud conspiracy charges

Published 5:57 pm Monday, March 11, 2024

An Alabama state lawmaker who has served for more than 40 years has agreed to admit guilty in a federal mail and wire fraud conspiracy and will resign as part of his plea deal, federal prosecutors said Monday.

Alabama State Representative John Rogers has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice in connection with the scheme to defraud the Jefferson County Community Service Fund, announced U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona, Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Carlton L. Peeples, and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Acting Special Agent in Charge Demetrius Hardeman.

In a plea agreement filed today in United States District Court, John Westley Rogers, Jr., 83, of Birmingham, has agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. These charges arise from an investigation of wrongdoing in connection with the Jefferson County Community Service Fund. Rogers has also agreed to resign from the Alabama House of Representatives. In February 2024, Rogers’s former assistant and companion, Varrie Johnson Kindall, pleaded guilty to conspiring with Rogers and former Representative Fred L. Plump, Jr. to defraud the Fund. Plump also pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges in June 2023 and resigned from the Alabama House of Representatives.

According to the second superseding indictment, in 2015 the Alabama Legislature passed Alabama Act No. 2015-226 (the “Act”) and authorized the Jefferson County Commission to levy and distribute a one percent sales tax and a one percent 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 or about August 2017. The Act required the County to distribute the tax revenue according to certain 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 set forth in the Act.

The Act created the Jefferson County Community Service Fund (the “Fund”), which was subsidized by approximately $3.6 million annually from the new taxes. The Act also created the Jefferson County Community Service Committee (the “Committee”), the four members of which were elected by members of the Jefferson County House and Senate delegations. The Committee was responsible for ensuring that the Fund was used only for the purposes set forth in the Act, which included to support 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. Each Representative and Senator representing Jefferson County could make recommendations to the Committee of expenditures from their allotted amount of the Fund. These recommendations were made on a form created by the Committee that required certain certifications by the legislator. 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 second superseding indictment identifies certain relevant parties. Defendant John Rogers was a long-serving member of the Alabama House of Representatives. Fred L. Plump, Jr. served as the Executive Director of the Piper Davis Youth Baseball League (“Piper Davis”), a nonprofit organization that claimed to provide a positive sporting experience for inner city youth in Jefferson County. Varrie Johnson Kindall was Rogers’ personal and professional assistant. Individual #1 was the Founder of Organization #1.

Between fiscal year 2018 and fiscal year 2022, Defendant Rogers was allocated approximately $500,000 by the Fund. Rogers directed approximately $400,000 of those discretionary funds to Piper Davis. In turn, Plump gave approximately $200,000 to Rogers and Kindall as a kickback.

The second superseding indictment alleges that from in or about March 2019, and continuing through April 2023, Rogers and Kindall conspired with Plump to defraud and obtain money from the Fund. It is alleged that it was part of the conspiracy that Rogers, with Kindall’s assistance, recommended during each fiscal year that most of his allotment of Fund money be paid to Piper Davis. In turn, Plump agreed to pay kickbacks to Rogers and Kindall. Rogers, Kindall, and Plump submitted false and fraudulent information to the Committee about Piper Davis’s intended use of Fund money, and Rogers’s certifications on the request forms were false. Upon receipt and deposit of Fund checks, Plump gave checks to Rogers and Kindall for approximately one-half of the amount of Fund money received by Piper Davis. The second superseding indictment also alleges that, in 2019, Rogers directed Fund money to Organization #1 and Kindall then required Individual #1 to pay kickbacks.

Additionally, the second superseding indictment alleges that, after learning about the federal investigation into the fraud scheme, Rogers and Kindall attempted to obstruct justice by offering a witness grant money as a bribe and otherwise trying to corruptly persuade the witness to give false information to federal agents. It is also alleged that Rogers and Kindall agreed that she would accept full responsibility for the crimes and falsely tell federal investigators that Rogers did not participate in the scheme in exchange for Rogers’s promise to take care of personal issues for Kindall if she went to prison. As part of that agreement, Rogers had Kindall give false statements to investigators and prosecutors during a meeting at the United States Attorney’s Office on May 25, 2023.

The maximum penalty for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for conspiracy to obstruct justice is 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation investigated the case, with assistance from the Alabama Attorney General’s Office. Assistant United States Attorneys George Martin, Catherine Crosby, and Ryan Rummage are prosecuting the case.