MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- A former Shelby County lawmaker was charged with extorting more than $250,000 from contractors on a multimillion dollar school project.
The charges by a federal grand jury accuse Bruce Thompson of extorting the money by claiming he could control the Memphis school board's vote on a contract for the $47 million project.
Prosecutors said Thompson told the contractors that without his help and campaign contributions passed along by him to certain school board members, a bid to get the contract would be in jeopardy.
The indictment was issued by a grand jury that has been investigating the school board's business practices for several weeks.
The charges in the indictment carry a maximum 80 years in prison and $1 million in fines, though federal sentencing guidelines call for a much lighter punishment for a first-time offender.
The construction contract awarded three years ago was for building three schools.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)