Ark. man allegedly defrauded NLR bidding process

AP News
Posted: Nov 17, 2009 10:52 AM

An Arkansas man running an illegal gambling operation conspired with a North Little Rock alderman and a contractor to rig city bids to collect on debts, a federal grand jury indictment unsealed Monday alleges.

George Wylie Thompson, 64, of Cabot was arrested in Bangkok, Thailand and later brought to Los Angeles, U.S. Attorney Jane Duke said. An investigation into Thompson's gambling operation led FBI agents to discover the bid-rigging scheme in North Little Rock that involved concrete purchases and landscaping project, Duke said.

On Dec. 22, 2008, Thompson allegedly called the alderman and urged him to find a no-bid contract for the contractor to fill, the indictment claims. The contractor later sought a half-million dollar project to pour sidewalks in the city and a project to landscape an exit off of Interstate 40, the indictment alleges.

The indictment claims the alderman in one conversation promised Thompson that the contractor would get the interstate exit project, saying: "I could not be any closer to the mayor than I am right now. Never been like this. I'm helping him and he's helping me."

The indictment did not name the contractor or the alderman involved in the scheme, though it did say the council member represented the city's Third Ward, served in the same position in the early 1990s and recently was re-elected to the position. Alderman Cary Gaines served in the '90s and rejoined the council in 2007.

Gaines did not return calls for comment Monday night and North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Hays could not be reached for comment.

Duke declined to identify the alderman, though she said the investigation into the bid rigging continued.

"We do anticipate seeking additional charges," Duke told The Associated Press.

The indictment claims Thompson, previously convicted on state and federal drug charges, also faces charges of illegally owning 147 firearms, owning 88 sets of ammunition, owning five illegal silencers and committing marriage fraud. Thompson also faces a charge over the gambling operation, which took bets on NBA games and other sports.

"Not only do illegal gambling operations threaten legitimate business, they can also open the door to involvement in other crime," said Tom Browne, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Little Rock field office.

Thompson remains held in Los Angeles, pending his return to Arkansas. Duke said she didn't know whether Thompson had a lawyer and declined to say why he was in Thailand.

North Little Rock, just across the Arkansas River from Little Rock, is home to about 60,000 people.