Fire College Indictment has Montgomery Area Connections: Chancellor Looking at Colleges - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Fire College Indictment has Montgomery Area Connections: Chancellor Looking at Colleges

MONTGOMERY, Ala., June 13, 2007 -  The federal indictment unsealed Tuesday in Birmingham of the former executive director of the Alabama Fire College shows William Luther Langston's alleged misdeeds had several connections to the Montgomery area.

Langston also served as Chairman of the Alabama Fire College Foundation Board of Directors and President of the Alabama Fire College Foundation.  Langston is accused of illegally diverting "more than $1.5 million to himself, his family and friends."

Langston stands accused of having funds from the Alabama Fire College Foundation used "to pay $3,503.79 to Victory School for his grandson's elementary school tuition and after school care. "  The Victory School is a private school in Millbrook.

Further the former executive director of the Fire College is alleged to have caused another payment of funds "to pay $4,320.00 to Macon East Montgomery Academy for another grandson's elementary school tuition."

Alabama Fire College Foundation check #1481 "in the amount of $4,320.00" was allegedly caused by Langston "to be placed in a United States Post Office and an authorized depository for mail to be sent and delivered to Macon-East Montgomery Academy, 15396 Vaughn Road, Cecil, Alabama, 36013. "

"It was a further part of the scheme and artifice that defendant WILLIAM LUTHER LANGSTON would and did cause the Alabama Fire College Foundation to issue a $5,000.00 check to each of his two grandsons. "

"It was a further part of the scheme and artifice that defendant WILLIAM LUTHER LANGSTON would and did cause the Alabama Fire College Foundation to pay approximately $335,000.00 for a house located near his children and grandchildren that he intended to make his personal residence. "  Langston never moved into this house near Millbrook.

According to Tuesday's indictment Langston also stands accused of "devising a scheme to cause an "envelope containing Alabama Fire College Foundation check # 1470 in the amount of $4,478.33 to be placed in a United States Post Office and an authorized depository for mail to be sent and delivered to Cohen's Electronics and Appliances, Inc., P.O. Box 230220, Montgomery, Alabama, 36123. "

The payment to Cohen's was allegedly for the purchase "of appliances that were delivered to his son's personal residence."

There are no allegations of wrongdoing in the indictment directed at any of the entities to which Langston allegedly arranged payment.

The indictment alleges that Langston used his position to defraud the Alabama Fire College Foundation and its donors and used "his control over the funds of the Alabama Fire College Foundation for his own benefit and the benefit of family members and friends."

The court filing says Langston had the treasurer of the Alabama Fire College Foundation, Robert Lloyd Nix, write the checks for the personal benefit of Langston, his family members and friends.

Other counts of the indictment allege Langston conspired with others to "obtain employment contracts and letters of appointment at the Alabama Fire College for friends and relatives of friends. These employees became known as "ghost employees."

The ghost employees were allegedly not required to "provide services for the value of compensation received" and Langston stands accused preventing others "at the Alabama Fire College from taking any action to remove these "ghost employees" from the payroll and also providing "documents and other assistance so that his relatives could obtain money from other Alabama Department of Postsecondary Institutions."

Langston is also accused of he and his coconspirators "would and did obtain employment and consultant contracts for his relatives at other Alabama Department of Postsecondary institutions."

Langston is alleged to have had people employed or benefit from arrangements with Shelton State Community College, Gadsden State Community College, Southern Union Community College and J.F. Ingram State Technical College.

He is also alleged to have had one "ghost" or "or nominal" employee appointed as a "Curriculum Specialist" at the Alabama Fire College among other arrangements which allegedly included raising the "salaries of at least five Alabama Fire College employees by approximately $3,000.00 each intending to request, and in fact receiving, $1,000.00 from each of those employees."

Between December 1999 and October 2004 the indictment charges that Langston "orchestrated the diversion of approximately $512,500.00 in Alabama Poison Center reimbursements from the Alabama Fire College to the Alabama Fire College Foundation."

Langston is accused of being involved in a conspiracy with former Alabama House of Representatives member Bryant Melton, who was employed at one point as the Director of Human Resources at Shelton State Community College.

The indictment alleges that beginning "in or about October 2000 and continuing until in or about September 2003...." the two conspired and Melton submitted "false grant application to the Joint Legislative Committee on Community Service Grands in order to direct legislative discretionary funds to the Alabama Fire College Foundation."  Then Langston is accused of causing checks "written by the Joint Legislative Committee on Community Service Grants to be deposited into the Alabama Fire College Foundation bank account."  From that account "under the guise of awarding scholarships"  Langston stands accused of having checks written from the foundation to Melton's daughter and "it was further part of the conspiracy that coconspirator Bryant Melton would and did use the money to pay personal expenses."

Money also allegedly went for construction work on a house at Shelton State Community College. The house was allegedly for Shelton State Community College President Rick Rogers who, along with Bishop State's President Yvonne Kennedy, is scheduled to learn about his future with the two-year college system at the June 28 State Board of Education meeting.  Chancellor Bradley Byrne is scheduled to make his recommendations at that meeting.

Byrne says he found out about the indictment the same way everyone else did and is sending people to gather information from colleges possibly involved:

"We read the indictment like anybody else did on the wire yesterday.   And once we found out about the indictment we went and got a copy.  And then, after looking at it and realizing that it potentially involved at least three of our schools , we determined that we needed to look into whatever that meant with regard to each of those three schools.  In one case we think it's actually something - like Shelton for example, that's something we already have a pretty active investigation ongoing.  This is an internal management investigation if you will.  In the case of Gadsden State and Southern Union in Opelika, those were sort of new things for us,  so we started something anew there."

Byrne says he's not talking about a criminal investigation:

"When I say investigations, that means somebody on my staff goes to the college to get what information we can get from the college about is this true or what is this about to try to give us some background on it.  We have to determine if we have some place down in the management function or if it's some violation of policy from within the system.

You can't tell directly from the indictment to what extent somebody in one of your institutions has done something - whether it's criminal or not, has done something inappropriate in management or practice.

And so what I've done is I've initiated the process to find out what is true.  What happened?  And if everything's on the up-and-up, that's one thing, if there's some problem with a violation of our policies or good management practices that's another.

Regarding the looking into more problems related to legislative discretionary money and Bishop State down in Mobile by county District Attorney John Tyson Byrne says he was aware of some questions related to the culinary laboratory:

"I'm aware from a prior review that there were questions and issues about the culinary arts program, particularly a restaurant that they run called the Best Grill.  And we've already looked into that to some extent and will continue to look into it.  Whether or not it's criminal, I don't know.  We're not looking at that aspect of it.  We're looking at it from a management point of view."

"That issue's not new to us.  Apparently it's new to the district attorney in terms of his criminal investigations.  It's just not new to us.  But there may be some criminal aspect of it that he knows about that I don't know about.  But we have already been reviewing it from a management point of view and will continue reviewing it from a management point of view. "

"I'm not undertaking a criminal investigation so I can't tell you if there's something new in what he's doing that's going to cause concern for us.  But we'll continue to look at it."

The two-year chancellor says he still plans to make his recommendations concerning Bishop State and Shelton State to the State Board of Education on June 28th. 

"Things change daily.  So can I say for sure without any doubt that things are going to stay according to plan - no I can't.  But that's still my intention and I think that's what's going to happen.   We're going to get to the 28th and I'm going to say to my board here's my recommendation whatever it is." 

The indictment is part of an ongoing federal corruption probe into the two-year college system, which includes a look into the activities of former Chancellor Roy Johnson.  Johnson has not been formally charged in the probe but a lien has been placed against Johnson's home in Opelika. 

Reported by: Helen Hammons

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