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Cameron indicted in misuse of funds
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ^ | Oct. 9, 2002 | By GINA BARTON and GEORGIA PABST

Posted on 10/09/2002 10:53:53 AM PDT by Darkshadow

Cameron indicted in misuse of funds

She funneled grant money into her campaign, U.S. attorney says

Last Updated: Oct. 8, 2002

Milwaukee Ald. Rosa Cameron illegally obtained federal block grant funds and used them to help finance her campaign, according to a federal indictment unsealed Tuesday.

17624Alderwoman Indicted
Ald. Rosa Cameron could face up to 35 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
These charges against Alderwoman Cameron involve public corruption, pure and simple.
- Steven M. Biskupic,
U.S. Attorney
Related Coverage
Profile: Dropout became driven to activism
Audio: 620 WTMJ's Jeff Wagner's interview with U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic (10/8/02)

Past City Hall Corruption
Ald. Richard Spaulding, indicted in 1986, was the last Milwaukee alderman to face federal corruption charges. The northwest side alderman was indicted and subsequently convicted of four counts of extortion for accepting $11,800 in bribes in exchange for zoning and liquor license favors in a sting set up by the FBI. He was sentenced to two years in prison and four years' probation. He was replaced on the council by Ald. Tom Nardelli.
Ald. Mark Ryan was convicted in state court in 1975 of two counts of misconduct in office for accepting a $600 clothing gift certificate in return for getting a tavern license for a west side restaurant and soliciting a $2,500 bribe to get a license restriction removed from another restaurant. He was removed from office and fined $1,000.

Ald. Ted Stude was accused in 1972 in state court of accepting a $500 bribe in return for approving a tavern license, but the charge was dismissed after the death of the prosecution's chief witness.
Virgil Hurless, Milwaukee's comptroller, resigned from office in 1961 in the face of a lawsuit by the Common Council. The council tried to force Hurless to pay back $12,584 that it said the comptroller owed for 41 travel vouchers that were not itemized. The case was settled out of court and the bonding company agreed to pay the city $6,537.
Milwaukee Ald. Albert J. Krause was convicted in 1951 in state court of accepting a $250 bribe to help someone get a tavern license. He resigned from office in 1950 at the demand of city officials. He served 13 months of a one- to three-year sentence.

From the Archives
Agents search offices of group Cameron founded (9/13/02)
Alderman's ties to program delay grants (8/20/02)
Cameron recall drive falls short (8/8/02)
Cameron backers turn out at City Hall (6/28/02)
Cameron the focus of grand jury inquiry (6/18/02)
Group fails to gain support for grants (5/30/02)
U.S. investigates decision to fund group run by Cameron's kin (5/8/02)
Cameron backs taking grant from daughter's group (5/6/02)
Alderman's claims of no ties to group don't match state records (3/18/02)
Alderman's conflicts halt U.S. grants (2/28/02)

The four-count indictment also accuses Cameron and two of her daughters of lying to get more than $100,000 for the Williamsburg Heights Community Association after she was elected.

Cameron, 55, who has been in office for two years, is charged with one count of engaging in a scheme to conceal information relating to federal grant money, which carries a possible five-year-prison term; and three counts of misapplication of federal grant funds, each of which carries a maximum 10-year prison term.

She will not be removed from the Common Council unless she is convicted of a felony, said City Attorney Grant Langley.

Cameron's daughters, Roberta Allen, 30, and LaZanda Moore, 33, also were charged with concealing information. If convicted, each faces a maximum prison term of five years.

Someone who answered the phone at Cameron's house hung up on a reporter.

Her attorney, Michael J. Steinle, said Tuesday evening he still was reviewing the indictment.

"In the interim, I assure you that Ms. Cameron will respond to any government requests to appear. Until such time as these things occur, we are not in a position to comment any further," he said.

Neither Allen nor Moore could be reached for comment.

Case followed news reports

Federal officials began investigating Cameron's activities after the Journal Sentinel reported them in March.

"These charges against Alderwoman Cameron involve public corruption, pure and simple," said U.S. Attorney Steven M. Biskupic. "Alderwoman Cameron is charged with misusing federal money to secure her election; and then, after being elected, using her position to ensure that family members continued to obtain the benefits of federal grant money."

In total, Cameron, three of her daughters and her ex-husband used more than $120,000 worth of the block grant funds for themselves, according to the indictment. Of that, more than $28,000 was taken from Williamsburg Heights and funneled into the account that funded Cameron's 2000 campaign for Common Council, the indictment charges.

As an alderwoman, Cameron was appointed to the city committee that oversees block grants. She voted to award $50,000 to Williamsburg Heights and sat by while an additional $113,000 was allocated to the organization.

After potential conflicts of interest surfaced, Cameron was removed from the committee, which met Tuesday to allocate this year's $22 million in block grant funds. Reaction to her indictment ranged from sympathy to outrage.

"Hopefully, she can navigate the process with good health and in good spirits," Ald. Willie Hines said. "Ultimately, I hope that city money was not abused."

Ald. Michael Murphy, another member of the block grant committee, said he was "disappointed and shocked to see the severity and range of the indictment" and hopes "justice will be served."

Ald. Mike D'Amato said if the allegations are true, "it's an unforgivable breach of the public trust to divert money from people who need it the most to promote your own campaign."

Others not charged

Neither Cameron's ex-husband, Hilton Ray Rollins, nor a third daughter, Robin Bennett, was criminally charged, although the indictment alleges that both received thousands of dollars from Williamsburg Heights.

"Those charged made intentional false statements or intentionally misused federal funds," said Biskupic, implying that Rollins and Bennett had not.

Some of the money that officials allege was given to Rollins was payment for work he did on a duplex originally purchased by Williamsburg Heights from the city for $200. The house was then resold at the same price to Cameron, who promised to use it as a foster home. Instead, occupants have said, she used it as a rental property.

Williamsburg Heights, which was founded by Cameron in 1993, was designed to fight crime and improve the neighborhood. Cameron ran the organization until she was elected to the Common Council in 2000, then turned it over to her daughters - a fact she is suspected of trying to hide from city officials.

Rollins, Cameron's ex-husband, told federal officials Williamsburg should be referred to as "Rosaburg" because Cameron has used the organization's assets "as if they were hers personally," according to an affidavit for a search warrant of Williamsburg's offices last month. Rollins told officials Cameron used the money for a trip to New York, among other things.

Behind-scenes control

Even after her election to the Common Council in 2000, Cameron continued to run Williamsburg Heights from behind the scenes, Rollins told officials.

"Rollins said that Cameron's daughter Roberta, at Cameron's suggestion, specifically changed her name from Roberta Cameron to Roberta Allen when she started at Williamsburg Heights in order to conceal the conflict," according to the affidavit. "Rosa Cameron told Rollins that if she was elected, she did not want to have Williamsburg Heights cut off from government funds and, in fact, wanted to get additional funds to Williamsburg Heights."

When interviewed by the city attorney's office, Cameron initially denied that Allen was her daughter, according to the affidavit. Then she said she wasn't aware Allen was working for Williamsburg Heights. Once Allen's identity was confirmed, a second daughter, LaZanda Moore, took over.

Assistant City Attorney Ellen Tangen told federal officials that again, Cameron lied about the relationship.

"Cameron told Tangen that many people called her 'Mama' and 'Auntie Rosa,' but that Moore was not her 'blood daughter,' " according to the affidavit.

Although Common Council President Marvin Pratt first asked the city attorney to investigate both ethical and legal questions about Cameron in March, he said he was surprised by the extent of the federal charges, which he called "unfortunate."

Pratt said he believes the indictment will shake public confidence in elected officials.

"I'm sure people will make that judgment," he said.

Some constituents already have done so, including Ramonda Irby, who led a failed recall effort against Cameron earlier this year.

"I'm thrilled," she said Tuesday. She called the indictment "a good thing" because it lets people know that there's weight to the accusations.

"The federal government doesn't go that far for nothing," she said.

Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Oct. 9, 2002.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Government; News/Current Events; US: Wisconsin
KEYWORDS: corruption; indictment; milwaukee

1 posted on 10/09/2002 10:53:53 AM PDT by Darkshadow
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2 posted on 10/09/2002 11:28:34 AM PDT by William McKinley
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To: Darkshadow
Let me guess, no party affiliation mentioned. Must be a DEMONCRAT!
3 posted on 10/09/2002 1:10:51 PM PDT by ikka
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