Former councilman Brian Davis pleads guilty to stealing funds; FBI keeps watch for public corruption

May 29, 2012

Former Common Council member Brian Davis pleaded guilty Tuesday to stealing $48,000 dollars in federal funds from the City of Buffalo. 

Davis  admitted the crime as part of a plea deal involving his cooperation with investigations at City Hall. 

"Today's developments mark one of the first times, in recent memory, that an elected official has been convicted of actually stealing money in his care," said U.S. Attorney William Hochul.

As a council member, Davis allegedly distributed federal aid within the community and then asked for some of the money to be returned to him and his associates. He pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of stealing from an organization receiving federal funds.

Davis pleaded not guilty a year ago to charges that he funneled discretionary funds meant for his district through not-for-profit agencies to himself.

Hochul told reporters during a mid-morning news conference Tuesday that Davis used two local organizations as pass-through agencies to put the money in his own bank account. 

"The vast majority of that money went to run two different types of events," said Hochul.

"In some instances, checks were being written to, for example Ellicott Fun Days was one check," said Russell Ippolito, Jr., Assistant U.S. Attorney, who handled the prosecution.  "But there is no such thing as Ellicott Fun Days.  Davis would take that check and deposit that check right to his account.  There were a few checks written directly to Brian Davis and he would justify it to the organizations as the funds were being spent on Ellicott Fun Days or the Ellicott Senior Ball."

The 42-year-old Davis represented the Ellicott District from 2003 to 2009 before resigning his post after admitting he misused campaign contributions.  

 Federal investigators continue to make public corruption remains a top criminal priority for the FBI.

"Public officials, like Mr. Davis are trusted to safe guard and protect the communities they serve,” said Steven Lanser, acting special agent in charge of the FBI.

Lanser noted that in past couple of years over 1,000 government employees nationwide have been convicted of public corruption, some similar to Davis's case of breaking the public's trust.

"Public corruption undermines the public trust and confidence in local and Western New York governments,” said Lanser.

The plea agreement means Davis must assist federal investigators in further investigation at City Hall. 

"We have the agents, now discussing with the defendant his knowledge of any and all other possible criminal activity," said Hochul.

Hochul noted that it was the investigation into the misuse of HUD funding for the former One Sunset restaurant on Delaware Avenue that opened up the Davis probe.

“The two special agents began following the paper trial," said Hochul.

Davis faces up to 10 years in prison for the felony admission, but the U.S. Attorney says  federal guidelines recommends a sentence of 10 to 16 months.