Feds call Dennis Churchwell a supporting character in Operation Main Street Sweeper - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Jason Miles

Feds call Dennis Churchwell a supporting character in Operation Main Street Sweeper

Dennis Churchwell was just a landlord looking to unload property when we interviewed him two months ago.  It was property on which Edmund Ford's mortuary sat.

"I just want to get rid of it and wash my hands of it, and that's what I'm doing," Churchwell told us.

But he couldn't wash away his relationship with Ford.  The feds say Churchwell cut the councilman a break on his rent in return for a political favor and then lied about it to the grand jury investigating Ford's unpaid utility bills.

"In the book entitled Memphis Public Corruption, the chapter Main Street Sweeper, this is another sad topic," FBI Special Agent In Charge My Harrison said during Wednesday's news conference.

They claim Dennis Churchwell is just a supporting character.

"Joseph Lee the Third," said U.S. Attorney David Kustoff.

He's the star.  The indictments allege that Lee, as President of MLGW, allowed Ford to rack-up more than $16,000 in debt to the utility.

"In return and as a reward for Edmund Ford's support," said Kustoff.

They say the indictments include proof that Ford did not receive the same favors before Lee came on board.

"The overwhelming majority of our politicians, our government employees, are honest, hardworking people," said Harrison.

They say others simply choose to place personal gain ahead of pubic service.

If convicted, Joseph Lee faces up to 20 years in prison. Ford faces the same, in addition to the penalties from his previous indictment in December.  Dennis Churchwell could spend five years behind bars.

Click here to email Jason Miles.
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