Atlanta-- Attorney General Thurbert Baker and Secretary of State Cathy Cox announced that Jerry W. Hope, a former investigator with the Secretary of State's Securities and Business Regulation Division, pleaded guilty today to bribery in Tift County Superior Court. Hope was sentenced to four years in prison to be followed by four years on probation. Assistant Attorney General David McLaughlin prosecuted the case on behalf of Attorney General Thurbert Baker.
Hope was employed as an investigator by the Securities and Business Regulation Division from 1995 until 1998. During 1997 and early 1998, Hope participated in a joint state-federal criminal investigation of GFI Financial, Inc., a company suspected of committing securities fraud in excess of $4 million. In January 1998, Hope made a series of telephone calls to GFI Financial's president, Virgil Womack, offering to provide Womack with confidential information about the investigation and to affect the course of the investigation to Womack's benefit in return for a $150,000 bribe.
The state's investigation began on January 16, 1998 when Womack's attorney faxed to the Secretary of State's office allegations of Hope's bribery solicitation. That same day, then-Assistant Secretary of State Cathy Cox contacted the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and requested that the agency immediately launch an investigation.
Womack recorded three of the six telephone calls he received from Hope. On the tapes, which were given to state investigators by Womack's lawyer, Hope can be heard soliciting the $150,000 bribe. Once the GBI began investigating Hope, he admitted his wrongdoing. As soon as Hope admitted he solicited the bribe, his employment was immediately terminated by the Secretary of State.
"As Georgia's chief law enforcement officer, I will not stand for state law enforcement officials who use their positions to try to enrich themselves," Baker said. "We will vigorously pursue and severely punish those officials who endanger the public's safety by subverting their duties to enforce the law in exchange for personal gain," he added.
"I want to commend Attorney General Thurbert Baker and the GBI for their vigorous investigation and prosecution of this case," said Secretary of State Cox. "It is always a sad day when a law enforcement officer is found guilty of a crime, but this case makes clear that the state will deal harshly with those who abuse the public trust," Cox added.