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American Shipper

Ex-Jacksonville port vice chairman indicted

Ex-Jacksonville port vice chairman indicted

   Tony DeVaughan Nelson, former Jacksonville Port Authority vice chairman, and Frank S. Bernardino, a Florida lobbyist, were charged Thursday with federal charges stemming from allegations of public corruption.

   The U.S. Justice Department said Nelson, while a board member for the port authority, corruptly demanded more than $100,000 from Subaqueous Services Inc. (SSI), a company with port contracts, in exchange for influence in his duties as a board member. Nelson allegedly received the bribe money from Lance William Young, SSI's owner.

   The indictment further alleges that Bernardino acted as a conduit between Young and Nelson to hide and conceal the nature of the bribe payments.

   Nelson was also charged with mail fraud over allegations connected to a November 2005 port dredging contract. The indictment alleges Nelson wrongfully exploited a port authority small-business goal regarding the contract and forged signatures on fraudulent documentation submitted to port authority in connection with the contract. Nelson was also charged with making a false statement to the FBI that a $50,000 bribe from Young was a loan.

   The indictment names Nelson in all 44 counts and Bernardino in 36 counts.

   Nelson resigned from the port board in 2008. After his departure, the port launched an investigation that included an outside auditor and strengthened procurement procedures.

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