MELISSA BLOCK, host:
A state senator takes a thousand dollars in cash at a restaurant and stuffs the bill inside her bra. She boasts of cracking knees and twisting arms to get a liquor license for a local nightclub. The man handing over the cash says, you take care of me, I take care of you. Nope, it's not a plotline from "The Wire" - these are allegations from an FBI investigation in Boston. It's led to the arrest of a longtime state senator, Dianne Wilkerson, and just today a Boston City councilmember, Chuck Turner. The FBI says the transactions are recorded on audio and videotape. Bianca Vazquez-Toness of member station WBUR is following the story. And Bianca, this goes back 18 months, this investigation; the FBI had an informant and he was wired as he was allegedly forking over the cash?
BIANCA VAZQUEZ-TONESS: That's true. This was allegedly a Boston businessman who has been named as a cooperating witness in the affidavit. He allegedly had told the FBI that he had seen both Dianne Wilkerson, Senator Dianne Wilkerson and the city councilor Chuck Turner receive bribes before. He never actually given them bribes before, but he had seen it so he told the FBI and then the FBI started miking him and sending him into to actually catch them on tape receiving bribes.
BLOCK: You know, the state Senator Dianne Wilkerson is charged with accepting more than $23,000 in bribes, the city councilman Chuck Turner allegedly a $1000 handed over right outside the council chamber according to the FBI and they were allegedly trying to work out a liquor license for this nightclub. Why is that liquor license such a hot commodity?
VAZQUEZ-TONESS: Liquor licenses are very scarce in Massachusetts, and so, you know, new ones don't just come available you have to buy one from an existing restaurant, that might be going out of business or might not need it and they can cost about $250,000 to $300,000 to get a liquor license. So, what Dianne Wilkerson was proposing to do was create more liquor licenses in the city of Boston, 40 more.
BLOCK: Tell us more about the career of Dianne Wilkerson. She was arrested three weeks ago.
VAZQUEZ-TONESS: Correct. Her career was long and started off very bright. She was elected 16 years ago, was an attorney for the NAACP and, you know, people thought that she would go really far, but very soon after being elected she got in trouble for not filing her income taxes over $50,000 in income taxes. She was in trouble for violating campaign finance rules, so quickly her star kind of fell but she kept getting elected over and over again. And in this last election Deval Patrick our governor and the mayor of Boston both supported her and went to the mat for making robo-calls for her at the last minute.
BLOCK: We should mention here that both Chuck Turner and Dianne Wilkerson have pleaded not guilty. I did want to ask you about something that the city councilman Chuck Turner told the Jamaica Plain Gazette before he was arrested. He said that the FBI seems to focus on trying to take black politicians down. This was after Dianne Wilkerson had been arrested. Is that - do you think that's the sentiment of very many people in Boston?
VAZQUEZ-TONESS: That is the sentiment of a lot of people in their district, they both represent a neighborhood that's considered the heart of the African American community in Boston and both politicians have represented a lot of issues that are important to African Americans and people living in poverty whether it would be racial profiling or foreclosures, or you know, police involvement in neighborhoods and violence.
BLOCK: OK, Bianca Vazquez-Toness of WBUR in Boston. Thanks very much.
VAZQUEZ-TONESS: Thank you.
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