October 4, 2019 / 6:29 AM / 2 months ago

Atlantic City mayor resigns over theft from youth basketball club

(Reuters) - Atlantic City’s Mayor Frank Gilliam resigned late on Thursday after pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud, and now faces a 20-year prison sentence for stealing about $87,000 from a youth basketball club, court records showed.

Gilliam, 49, who has led the resort city on New Jersey’s Atlantic coast since a 2017 election in the community known for its casinos and boardwalk, sent a resignation letter to the city clerk’s office, media said.

“It is with a heavy heart that I tender my resignation as mayor of Atlantic City effective immediately,” he wrote in the letter, published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, among others.

“I would like to apologize to the residents of the great city of Atlantic City who deserve civility and respect. My sincere apologies to each constituent that voted for me and had high hopes for my tenure.”

His letter came in the wake of a call from New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy for Gilliam to resign, media said, adding that city council president Marty Small would be sworn into office on Friday.

Reuters could not reach Gilliam or his attorney early on Friday to seek comment.

Earlier on Thursday, Gilliam pleaded guilty in a New Jersey federal court to charges that he stole funds from AC Starz Basketball Club, a youth nonprofit club he helped start, prosecutors said.

He used the money to buy designer clothes, expensive meals and travel, they added.

“The object of this scheme was...to obtain donations from AC Starz contributors under the false pretense that these funds would be used for the benefit of a youth basketball team,” they said in court papers.

Gilliam, a Democrat, co-founded the club in 2011, and began stealing money in 2013, the documents showed.

His attorney, Harry Rimm, told the court Gilliam’s crime was not connected to his role as mayor and did not involve taxpayer’s money, the Wall Street Journal newspaper said.

Rimm also said his client was remorseful and took responsibility for his actions, the paper added.

Gilliam faces a possible 20-year prison term and is set to be sentenced on Jan. 7, court papers showed.

He was also ordered to make full restitution, including the surrender of about $41,000 in cash seized in a police raid on his home last December.

Reporting by Rich McKay; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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