Sometimes, power and wealth isn’t enough for some people. When it comes to politicians the public has witnessed controversies involving prostitution, cheating, immoral behavior, and corruption. Usually, these prominent and well connected individuals in office are able to avoid doing time in prison since they have the best legal teams money can buy. However, there are a handful of politicians who couldn’t avoid serving time behind bars after breaking the law. Oftentimes, they are linked to years of illegal activities that couldn’t be swept under the rug despite having power, fame, and fortune. What’s even more surprising is seeing some of these corrupt people flourish in the same profession, or a brand new one after being convicted and going to jail.
Here’s a list of the top 10 largest prison sentences of corrupt politicians.
10) Former Mayor Eddie Perez – 3 Years
Eduardo Alberto “Eddie” Perez served as Mayor of Hartford, Connecticut from 2001-2010. He was convicted in 2010 of five corruption charges including attempted extortion, taking a bribe, and facing up to 60 years in prison. The six-person Hartford Superior Court convicted him in 2010 on receiving a bribe, attempted first-degree larceny by extortion, and three other felony counts according to the Associated Press. The focus of the trail was on Eddie’s acceptance of home improvements from a contractor in return for keeping him on a $2.4 million construction project. He also allegedly tried to extort a developer into paying thousands of dollars to a political ally. Eddie immediately appealed the decision and was allowed to remain a free man on an appeal bond as the case was reviewed. In 2013, the state’s appellate court overturned the 2010 corruption convictions. He now works as a consultant and also owns his own firm.
9) Former Representative Frank Ballance – 4 Years
Frank W. Ballance, Jr. is a former member of the United States House of Representatives, representing North Carolina’s 1st congressional district. In 2004, he resigned from his seat due to health issues. Later that year, Frank was indicted on federal charges: conspiracy to commit mail fraud with his son, money laundering, and more. Prosecutors said the politician channeled more than $2 million to a private foundation, and the money was going to benefit his immediate family. A plea agreement was reached and he was sentenced to four years in prison where two would be served under supervised release. The former politician was also fined $10,000 and was disbarred from the practice of law in the state of North Carolina. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Frank was released from prison in 2009.
8) Former Governor Don Siegelman – 7 Years
Don Siegelman held multiple offices in Alabama, most known for his time as the Governor of Alabama from 1999-2003. In 2004, Don was indicted on federal charges but they were all dropped the next day due to a lack of evidence. However, a few years later he was indicted on new charges of bribery and mail fraud due to his connection to former CEO of HealthSouth. Don was accused of trading government favors for campaign donations from 1995-2003. He was acquitted on 25 counts and convicted of seven counts relating to bribery, obstruction of justice, and more. Don was sentenced to seven years in federal prison and also fined $50,000. He appealed the decision to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals but they denied his request for a new trial. However, two of the seven charges were struck down and his time in prison was reduced by 10 months. The same Court of Appeals will hear his request for a new trial this year.
7) Former Representative Edwin Edwards – 10 Years
Edwin Edwards, the former Louisiana governor, served as the U.S. Representative for Louisiana as well as the Governor of the state for four terms. In 2001, he was found guilty of racketeering charges and sentenced to ten years in prison, ultimately serving eight of those. Other charges included wire fraud, money laundering, mail fraud, and extortion. The former Governor maintained his innocence although there were transcripts of audio conversations and much more evidence that indicated illegal activities. Even former San Francisco 49ers owner, Edward J. DeBartolo, Jr. admitted to paying Edwin $400,000 in exchange for his assistance in securing a casino license. Edwin began serving his sentence in 2002 and was released eight years later. In 2013, he was granted early release from parole and announced this year that he’ll be running to represent Louisiana’s 6th Congressional District. Based on recent polls, he may have a shot at winning.
6) Former Mayor Ray Nagin – 10 Years
Ray Nagin was elected Mayor of New Orleans in 2002 and became internationally known after Hurricane Katrina. He left office in 2010 and remained out of the public eye until 2013 when he was indicted on 21 corruption charges. He plead not guilty to all charges in a federal courthouse. Ultimately, he was convicted on 20 of the 21 counts earlier this year. One charge concluded that Ray took more than $500,000 in payouts from businessmen in exchange for city contracts that earned them millions of dollars. Other convictions included fraud and money laundering before and after Hurricane Katrina. He was sentenced to ten years in federal prison, and had the following to say: “Well, in my opinion, I’ve been targeted, smeared, tarnished and for some reason some of the stances that I took after Katrina didn’t sit well with some very powerful people. So now I’m paying the price for that.” He reported into a federal prison in September where he was with friends before being searched and going inside to start his sentence.
5) Former Alderman Ambrosio Medrano – 10.5 Years
Former Chicago Alderman Ambrosio Medrano is not new to breaking the law. He is the only former former Chicago Alderman to be convicted of public corruption on more than one occasion according to the Chicago Sun-Times. He was convicted and sentenced to 30 months in prison in connection with Operation Silver Shovel in 1996. Then, this year he was found guilty for a bribery scheme to influence a bandage contract at Stroger Hospital, and sentenced to ten and a half years in prison by a federal judge. The Associated Press reported jurors deliberated for around four hours before coming to the decision to convict Ambrosio of conspiracy to commit bribery. He has been given more total federal prison time than any other public official in Chicago history. U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman who threw down the punishment found it “shocking” that Ambrosio would repeat the same crime as the one he committed in the 1990s.
4) Former Representative William Jefferson – 13 Years
Like many cases involving politicians, the one against former Louisiana representative William Jefferson began with suspicions around bribery. Although he was re-elected in 2006 after his Congressional offices were raided, a federal grand jury later indicted him on sixteen charges related to corruption. An investigator claimed $400,000 in bribes were paid through a company in the name of his wife and children. The former politician was also videotaped by the FBI receiving $100,000 worth of bills in a brief case at a luxury hotel in Virginia in connection with a bribery scheme. In 2009, William was found guilty of 11 of the 16 corruption counts. He received the longest sentence ever handed down to a congressman for bribery, which was 13 years. That same year, a federal judge denied his request for a new trial. Several years later, the U.S. Supreme Court denied his petition for the decision of his trial to be reviewed. He is scheduled to be released in 2023.
3) Former Governor Rod Blagojevich – 14 Years
Rod Blagojevich, former Governor of Illinois, has been under investigation for corruption by the FBI since 2005. As a result, he was impeached by the Illinois Senate in 2009 and removed from office. Since the beginning, he denied all of the charges which included him trying to sell the Senate seat that became vacant after President Obama won the presidential election. When there was evidence proving his guilt, Rod finally apologized to the public, saying: “I have nobody to blame but myself for my stupidity and actions, words, things that I did, that I thought I could do.”
After a mistrial, the former Illinois Governor was found guilty of 17 out of 20 charges of corruption and sentenced to 14 years in prison. He was found not guilty on attempting to extort politician Rahm Emanual, but received a guilty verdict on charges related to the Senate seat formerly vacated by President Obama. Since there is no parole in the Federal Prison System at the Federal Correctional Institution in Colorado where Rob’s serving his time, he has to serve at least 85% of the 15 years. He will be eligible for early release in 2024. Last year, attorneys filed for an appeal on his behalf to challenge the charges in addition to the length of his prison term.
2) Former Mayor Larry Langford – 15 Years
In 2007 the former Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama was investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on corruption charges. The next year, a lawsuit was filed against him for breaking the law by accepting $156,000 in cash and benefits. Larry was arrested by the FBI for numerous charges ranging from fraud, money laundering, filing false tax returns in connection with a bribery scheme, and conspiracy. For example, the former Mayor supposedly “won” over 555 jackpots from 2006-2008 at his friend’s casino, which totaled around $1.5 million. Although he didn’t receive time in prison for this, many residents felt there was bribery involved.
In 2009, the controversial politician was convicted on multiple counts of bribery. A federal jury found that he accepted more than $200,000 in cash, jewelry, expensive clothes, and other items in exchange for steering millions of dollars in business to an investment banker. Ultimately, Larry was sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined $360,000 by a federal judge. He made an announcement last year that he was terminally ill and dying.
1) Former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick – 28 Years
Kwame Kilpatrick was the Mayor of Michigan from 2002-2008, and found himself in trouble with the law multiple times after resigning. First, he was convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice, and other felony counts. He was only sentenced to four months in jail and ended up serving 99 days. After violating his probation, Kwame was sentenced to more time in prison in 2010 for missing multiple restitution payments.
That same year, Kwame was indicted on corruption charges along with his father. A federal prosecutor claimed there was a “pattern of extortion, bribery and fraud” by Michigan’s top officials. Kwame allegedly participated in fraudulent schemes, one involving awarding lucrative contracts in the city’s Department of Water and Sewerage. The former Mayor of Michigan received kickbacks of around $1,000,000. In 2013, he was convicted on 24 felony counts and ultimately received 28 years in prison. Overall, for much of Kwame’s time in office, he participated in a series of scandals that ended up hurting a city that was in great need of a leader.