(WJHL) – In a pre-sentencing memo filed Thursday, the Columbia, SC businessman who pleaded guilty in connection to the ongoing federal corruption investigation involving Bristol Virginia Utilities says the utility made it clear if he did not “play ball and do things BVU expected, they would find a way to cancel his contracts and find other vendors who were willing to do what they expected.”
The memo, filed by James Todd Edwards’ attorney Thursday, reveals during his time as a contractor for BVU the utility and its employees asked him to pay for entertainment and other things, including a 2012 employee Christmas party, alcohol for social functions, golf outings, hunting trips and gift cards.
“Mr. Edwards has never encountered another client like BVU; with BVU, gifts, contributions and sponsorships were not simply encouraged or appreciated – they were expected,” the memo states. “Mr. Edwards was told that if he wanted to continue his relationship with BVU, he was requested to join trade and business organizations to which BVU belonged…In other words, he was expected to comply with these ‘requests’ if he wanted to continue his business relationship with BVU and if he wanted his employees in the Bristol area to keep their jobs.”
As we previously reported, Edwards, the former CEO of Edwards Telecommunications, Inc. has cooperated with federal investigators since summer 2014. His cooperation has been a key part of the federal government’s prosecution of former BVU Vice Presidents Robert James Kelley, Jr. and David Copeland. In return for that cooperation, he is expected to receive a prison sentence of one year when he appears for his sentencing hearing in Abingdon Tuesday morning. The sentencing memo reveals Edwards took on undercover duties and went so far as to record phone conversations and meetings with Copeland and Kelley.
“Copeland and Kelley were friends,” the memo states. “Shortly before Kelley’s termination and well before Copeland requested his first kickback payment, Copeland requested that Mr. Edwards take both Copeland, Kelley and their wives on a trip to Costa Rica – at Mr. Edwards’ expense, of course.”
His attorney makes note that his cooperation is not over just yet.
“Mr. Edwards continues to cooperate with the ongoing investigation and understands he may be called upon to testify before a grand jury and at other hearings should additional indictments be returned,” the memo states. “Mr. Edwards deeply regrets his actions and appreciates that federal authorities have given him an opportunity to help right the wrong he has committed and to help change the culture which existed for years at BVU.”
According to the memo, Copeland “was by far the most aggressive.”
“For several years, Mr. Edwards ended his bi-annual practice of taking hunting trips to Canada because Copeland always insisted he be included on these trips at Mr. Edwards’ expense,” the memo states. “Of all of the BVU employees with whom Mr. Edwards interacted, Copeland was by far the most aggressive and the most insistent that Mr. Edwards pay for various items – including but not limited to the kickbacks he demanded after Kelley was terminated.”
The memo reminds the judge that Edwards is a good father and a successful man who is known for his “hard work, faith and leadership.”
“This hard earned reputation has been tarnished from his dealings with Bristol Virginia Utilities (BVU), David Copeland and James Kelley,” the memo states. “Mr. Edwards accepts responsibility for his actions but asks this Court to recognize that the offense that brings him before this Court is an aberration in his life – and one that will not be repeated.”
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