OUR COVER STORY
– City Commissioner Scott Maddox
On the Evening of December 1st, 2016, a Cessna 560XL Luxury Private Plane illuminates the Tallahassee Tarmac.
FBI Private Plane Arrives at Tallahassee International Airport
December 1st, 2016 (6:00 PM EST)
City Commissioner Scott Maddox, Developer J.T. Burnette and Undercover FBI Agent Mike Miller join Undercover FBI Agent Brian Butler on the Tallahassee Tarmac aboard a NetJet luxury private plane.
Maddox skips out on the City of Tallahassee’s annual Winter Festival, which was going on as he boarded the plane. All other members of the City Commission partook in the festival that night.
Instead, Maddox unwittingly joined undercover FBI agents to celebrate agent Mike Miller’s ‘birthday’.
Inside the Cessna 560XLS
The Federal Bureau of Investigation chooses a Cessna 560 XLS for the trip, a private plane with a maximum of 12 people, padded leather interiors, a refrigerator stocked with drinks, and chock-full of undercover listening devices.
They take off to Las Vegas.
DAY ONE in Vegas >>
FBI Private Plane Arrives in Las Vegas
FBI Undercover Recording –
JT Burnette to Undercover Agent Mike Sweets in Dallas, Texas
“Scott told me “I don’t want to have a weird thing in Vegas.”
December 1st, 2016 (9:00 PM PST)
The gang arrives in the evening in Vegas.
They check into their hotel, the Vdara in Downtown Las Vegas. Undercover Agent Mike Sweets, who goes by “Sweets,” pays for the room. Sweets testified in federal court that agents refer to their cover story as their “legend.” Sweets’ legend is a gay millionaire who made his money in the marijuana business.
Sweets claimed to be the majority investor of their company, Southern Pine Development.
Mike Miller poses as an asset manager looking to invest more than one hundred million dollars in real estate deals in Tallahassee.
Three Nights at the Vdara in Las Vegas
At times, Sweets represents to Burnette and Maddox that some of his money comes from the international drug trade.
He references that he has to go to Juarez, Mexico for business to Maddox. “You know why I have to go to Juarez,” Sweets asks. “Don’t do that,” Maddox says.
In the lobby of the hotel, Burnette cautions Sweets not to discuss bribery openly with Maddox:
JT Burnette to Undercover Agent Mike Sweets in Las Vegas on 12/1/2016
“He doesn’t want to have inappropriate conversations with anyone but me.”
“I’m not saying it’s a bad idea by any means” (paying Paige for Maddox’s support)
December 1st, 2016 (11:00 PM PST)
In the evening, from the Vdara, they travel to Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club. A three-floor strip club off the main highway that runs through Vegas. They start on the second floor, above the main patrons in VIP booths, undercover agents talk development with Maddox and Burnette.
The FBI brings along two additional undercover agents in Vegas, posing as additional investors of Mike Miller. One of the agents, Jack Dewitt, inquired to Maddox how he knew Burnette:
Scott Maddox and Undercover Agent Jack DeWitt in Las Vegas on 12/1/2016
Undercover Agent Jack Dewitt:
“How do you two know eachother?”
“That I have no doubt, after tonight.”
Inside Hustler's and a $750 Private Session
December 2nd, 2016 (Midnight- 4:00 AM PST)
Inside, undercover recordings start with Burnette, Butler, and Sweets huddling in a VIP booth.
As pop music blares in the background, the trio discussed the viability of Fallschase, a highly controversial project that Burnette was interested in pursuing.
On two occasions during the conversation, a stripper approached the group and encouraged them to quit talking business.
“Are you still having a pow-wow?” she asks.
“Are you boys talking about vagina?” she interrupts a second time later on.
“Do you want to touch my boobs?”
“No” Burnette said.
Maddox and Butler declined the offer as well.
“I’m not in the business of doing what I want; I do what I’m told.” Burnette joked as she left, bringing the subject back to city government subsidies.
Burnette brought the subject up of residential developments, explaining the appeal of Fallschase and why Welaunee wasn’t an option for the group to invest in.
JT Burnette and Undercover Agent Mike Sweets in Las Vegas on 12/2/2016
“Fallschase is simple, there’s no fucking lot inventory (in Tallahassee).”
“What you have in Welaunee, is one piece of property controlled effectively by one national homebuilder.”
Inside the Champagne Room
Sweets testified that a bottle server in their VIP section approached him early in the night and said that Maddox had asked to go to the third floor Champagne Room, which is the most expensive VIP experience at Hustlers. At $750 for thirty minutes, Sweets was initially hesitant.
Sweets told the bottle girl that Maddox needed to ask Sweets directly, and Maddox shortly did.
Sweets agreed to pick up the tab, and they all went upstairs to the Champagne Room.
Maddox went back and forth from a private room with a performer. On one occasion, recordings can hear the group talking in the Champagne room:
Scott Maddox and Undercover Agent Mike Sweets in Las Vegas on 12/1/2016
Undercover Agent Mike Sweets:
“You haven’t shown me shit.”
“And I never will.”
“I’m as pure as a Baptist in a fucking halo. I live at the foot of the cross.”
“It makes things a lot easier if we could just fucking talk.”
“This is how we talk in Scottsdale”
Sweets testified that he believed this exchange was Maddox’s way of saying that he was corrupt.
The group stayed at Hustlers until nearly four A.M.
Undercover agents picked up the $6,500 tab.
DAY TWO in Vegas >>
Saturday, December 2nd, 2016
A Meeting in the Vdara Lobby
December 2nd, 2016 (4:30 – 6:00 PM Pacific Time)
On the elevator from their rooms to the lobby, Sweets and Burnette discuss the day ahead.
“I sent you a screenshot of two companies that bring midget strippers to your door.”
“Oh yes, yes.
Undercover Agent Mike Sweets
“You order that up for Mike’s birthday.”
“I got it.”
Sweets testified that Burnette would pick up the cost of the stripper, and Sweets’ would cover the cost of their drinking that night.
In the lobby of the Vdara, the group begins to assemble for the day after their long night out.
Before Maddox arrives downstairs, Burnette and Sweets can be heard talking. They discuss the ‘investor’s meeting’ with Maddox that they will have over the next few hours.
Sweets explained that his ‘investors’ are sold on Maddox after their night at the strip club. Sweets told Burnette that there is no point in their planned investor’s meeting. Ultimately, his investors want to know that regardless of the project they propose in Tallahassee, it will get approved and get past any ‘hurdles’ in local government along the way, he says.
Burnette cautions Sweets that he cannot say anything about hiring Governance during the meeting. Sweets testified that he took this to mean that Burnette didn’t want anyone talking about bribery in such a large group, with seven people there.
At the bar lobby, drinks clank together. It’s a busy Saturday afternoon in the Vdara.
Maddox arrives from upstairs. Sweets is flirting with the bartender, he orders drinks for the group.
Maddox is drinking Maker’s Mark; Sweet’s doesn’t drink liquor. He’s drinking beer.
In the Vegas hotel lobby, the subject turns to Tallahassee’s Cascades Park and Burnette’s plan to develop a city-owned parcel of land in Myer’s Park with the FBI agents posing as developers.
The city property houses Parks and Recreation administrative buildings, often rented out as community gathering spaces.
Just one month before, the City Commission voted 4-1 to explore issuing an RFP for the land. City Commissioner Curtis Richardson was the lone no vote opposed to the sale of the city owned land.
In Vegas, Maddox can be heard discussing how he wants to arrange undercover agents to win the RFP.
Scott Maddox and Undercover Agent Mike Sweets in Las Vegas on 12/2/2016
“The City gives you an RFP, you answer the RFP, you know… put your best foot forward. I don’t see… I think… have other people step forward, because they’ll start doing due-diligence, and think you’re a good person to do it.
“You’re in. The City … spare your bro (Burnette) construction cost.
“Oh, so how… who decides when that piece of property goes up for sale?
“There will be an RFP.”
“The Commission has to approve the RFP.”
“Yeah, but wait, somebody says, hey, now is the time to put this park… and there’s some order that…? “
“… or somebody says ‘hey, now is not the time…'”
“Or you can do an RFQ, and leave it open, select the developer, and leave it open as to what the product is.”
Upstairs, a Special Performance Awaits
December 2nd, 2016 (6:00 – 7:00 PM Pacific Time)
After drinks in the Vdara Lobby Bar, Maddox, Burnette, and Sweets head upstairs.
Their paid talent has arrived. She’s a little-person exotic dancer.
Sweets said Burnette paid for the little-person dancer, and although an hour-long, Sweets testified on Thursday that it “seemed like forever” that the little person joined them in their hotel-room suite.
Photos from this incident circulated in the media.
The dancer was holding a paddle in the photo.
When Sweets was asked by the government why they ordered a little-person exotic dancer, Sweets replied:
“Maddox had a fetish for little people, and JT ordered her for him.”
Five years later, after pleading guilty to wire fraud, mail fraud, and conspiracy to defraud the United States, Maddox would appear on the witness stand in federal court and testify.
“I told the lady to keep her clothes on”
“It was a running joke” Maddox said.