PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) - A Panhandle developer was charged Tuesday with breaking federal campaign finance laws by reimbursing numerous people who made the maximum legal donation of $2,300 to a presidential candidate he supported.
Jay Odom, 56, surrendered to federal authorities in Pensacola on Tuesday. The U.S. Attorney's Office for Florida's Northern District said Odom would plead not guilty to charges that in 2007 he circumvented federal campaign contribution limits.
The indictment alleges Odom reimbursed some people who made contributions of $2,300 to a presidential candidate, but does not mention the specific candidate. Federal records show that Odom and his wife made contributions in late 2007 to former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Prosecutors say the illegal campaign contributions came to more than $10,000.
Odom is a longtime and major commercial and residential developer in locations throughout the Panhandle.
In 2011, state prosecutors dropped charges against Odom and former Republican House Speaker Ray Sansom. Sansom had been accused of scheming to get $6 million in the state budget to build a hangar at the Destin airport that would have benefited Odom, a major Republican donor.
A trial on the campaign finance fraud charges against Odom is scheduled to start March 4 before U.S. District Judge Lacey A. Collier in Pensacola. Odom faces up to seven years in prison if convicted of all of the charges in the indictment.
Odom's attorney James Judkins said Tuesday that his client would fight the charges.
"He is very disappointed in this indictment and he will meet this challenge in court," Judkins said. He said Odom was released from custody Tuesday afternoon and was not due to report back to court before his trial date in March.
The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to say Tuesday whether the campaign finance charges represented the end of the investigation or whether more charges could follow. Judkins said he did not want to speculate about the scope of the FBI's investigation or the possibility of further indictments.
The indictment said Odom developed and executed a scheme to beat campaign finance regulations.
"From in or about December 2007, defendant Odom, aware of the strict limits on individual contributions, knowingly devised a scheme whereby he used employees of his business entities and their family members, along with associates, among others, as conduits through which to funnel his own money to the authorized campaign committee of Federal Candidate A under the guise of lawful campaign contributions," the indictment states.
"It was a part of the scheme to knowingly deceive the FEC and the public into believing that certain individuals were contributing to the authorized campaign committee of Federal Candidate A when, in truth and in fact, defendant Odom was the true donor."
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