By Emily Harris
CHARLOTTE N.C. (Reuters) - The former mayor of Charlotte pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a federal public corruption charge that brought his arrest and resignation after a brief stint as the elected leader of North Carolina's largest city.
Patrick Cannon, a Democrat who served on the Charlotte City Council before being elected mayor in November, admitted to accepting at least $50,000 in bribes in exchange for using his official positions to help several people seeking to do business in the city.
Two of those businessmen were federal agents posing as real estate developers and investors. A sting that began in August 2010 led to Cannon's arrest in March on charges that he accepted cash, paid travel to Las Vegas and use of a luxury apartment from the undercover agents.
A court document unsealed on Monday also accused Cannon, 47, of taking bribes from the owner of an adult entertainment club and using his influence to help the business stay open despite being in the path of the city's new light-rail line.
The former mayor, who resigned when he was arrested, asked for forgiveness in a statement he read outside the federal courthouse in Charlotte.
"Much has been given to me in the way of the public's trust," Cannon said. "I regret having acted in ways that broke that trust. For that, I am deeply sorry."
Cannon was not immediately sentenced but could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for one count of honest services wire fraud. The charge holds that he deprived the city of his "honest and faithful services" by carrying out the bribery scheme dating back to December 2009.
He has agreed to pay restitution that will be determined by a federal judge at sentencing and help in the ongoing federal investigation, attorneys said.
Anne Tompkins, U.S. attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, said the probe reaches beyond the former mayor's criminal actions, which she said brought "undeserved shame and embarrassment" to Charlotte.
"We have the duty to discover the depth and breadth of the fraud ... and whether it extends beyond the mayor's office," she told reporters after Cannon's guilty plea.
(Reporting by Emily Harris; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Jim Loney)