Friday, April 6, 2018

Feds charge ex-Metro Nashville airport official with stealing more than $130k in cellphones

A former Metro Nashville Airport Authority official is suspected of stealing more than $130,000 worth of cellphones through his role with the authority, according to a federal court filing Thursday. 

John Pat Banister, Sr., obtained 282 new and upgraded phones from February 2015 to January 2017 through fraudulent means as telecommunications service manager, states an information filed Thursday in federal court. 

An information is a federal charging document that indicates the person accused of committing the crime acknowledges their guilt. 

Banister is charged with mail fraud, accused of illegally having the phones shipped to him under the guise they were needed by the authority. 

He is the latest airport official to face federal charges amid ongoing scrutiny of the leadership at the major airport. 

In April 2016, former executive John T. Howard was sentenced to two years in federal prison and ordered to pay $1.4 million in restitution stemming from charges of money laundering, wire fraud and accepting a bribe. 

That same month, airport contractor Tim Rucker was charged with conspiring with Howard to commit money laundering and wire fraud. Rucker pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight months in prison. 

The incidents, including the investigation into the stolen phones, are part of an ongoing legal battle between the former authority leader and the airport board. 

Former airport authority CEO Rob Wigington was fired in October 2017. The board cites a lack of oversight and lack of controls as a criticism of Wigington. The theft of phones occurred on Wigington’s watch, but the board did not find out about the theft from Wigington, which angered them. 

Wiginton says he was wrongly fired after telling the board he was sick. He sued the authority for wrongful termination. Federal proceedings are ongoing. 

Original article can be found here ➤ https://www.tennessean.com

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