Federal prosecutors announced today that former Jefferson County Commissioner and Birmingham City Council member John Katopodis was arrested this morning in Boston, Mass. A federal grand jury had indicted Katopodis on 97 counts of fraud related to Computer Help for Kids, a non-profit organization.
Katopodis started the charity in 2000 with the help of former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy and Larry Langford. Computer Help for Kids was supposed to refurbish used computers and donate them to area children. The Jefferson County Commission granted Computer Help for Kids $815,000 from 2002 through 2007, according to today's indictment.
The charges against Katopodis include wire fraud, mail fraud, and honest services fraud. The indictment alleges that Katopodis withdrew charity funds on 27 different occasions at casinos in Louisiana and Mississippi from 2004 to 2007, and withdrew charity funds "at or near casinos in New Orleans" 23 times.
According to the indictment, Katopodis also purchased plane tickets for himself and his friends on 14 different occasions, transferred charity funds into his personal checking account, and caused Jefferson County to issue checks to Compuer Help for Kids.
In all, Katopodis's alleged fraud amounts to nearly $250,000. The US Attorney's office is seeking $250,000 in forfeiture, and Katopodis could face up to a $250,000 fine and 20 years in prison for each of the 97 counts of fraud.
Katopodis has been released on bond.
Mayor Langford had tapped Katopodis to lead a similar nonprofit to provide laptops to Birmingham students. Katopodis removed himself from that project after his history with Computer Help for Kids became public knowledge.
For more information about Computer Help for Kids, Katopodis' and ties to Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford, follow the links below.
FBI probes Langford-liked charity
Computer Help for Kicks?
Langford consultant has tricky ties
Larry Langford's Greatest Hits
Langford dissolves laptop board
Feds indict Langford cohort Katopodis