Friday, January 22, 2021

Former Prichard chief of staff pleads guilty to money laundering

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Former Prichard Chief of Staff James Blackman has filed a plea agreement admitting to two charges, theft and money laundering.

Blackman faces up to 10 years on each charge.

The 18-count indictment handed up in December 2019 alleges that Blackman, while serving as Chief of Staff, took approximately $200,000 from the City of Prichard between January and December of 2017.

The money laundering charge concerns a wire transfer of $39,200.36 to Surety Land Title, Inc., which consisted of funds taken in the wire fraud allegations, according to the indictment.

In August 2018 Blackman was indicted in state court on 45 charges of theft.

In March of 2019 Blackman plead guilty to dozens of the charges he was facing. That plea was thrown out by Mobile County Circuit Judge James Patterson when the Mobile County District Attorneys Office filed notice to introduce aggravating circumstances. Proving aggravating circumstances could have increased the potential penalties Blackman could receive, which he would not have been aware of when pleading guilty.

In November, the Alabama Supreme Court stayed the proceedings in Mobile County Circuit Court while they consider an appeal of a ruling in the case.

The original charges came as the result of an audit of Prichard city funds in January of 2018. He was arrested on more charges a week later in early February.

NBC 15 News uncovered more misspent money while digging through city records. After our report about city funds used by Blackman at a jewelry store in Mississippi, Blackman was arrested again in August of 2018 on even more theft charges.

Blackman wrote a letter apologizing to the people of Prichard in February of 2018 and saying the crimes were “completely out of character.” While Blackman did not admit fault, he did promise to repay all misappropriated funds.

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