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Former Patrick Cannon aide confirms her role in FBI affidavit

A woman named in an FBI search warrant last week confirmed on Thursday that she is the unnamed campaign aide referenced in an affidavit outlining charges against former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon.

In a statement sent to media outlets, Amani Abdul denied any wrongdoing in the case as well as any romantic involvement with Cannon, who was arrested March 26 on public corruption charges.

“I have done nothing wrong or illegal and have not been contacted by the FBI or any other law enforcement agency with regards to this matter,” Abdul said in the statement. “However, if approached by the FBI or the United States Attorney’s office I will cooperate fully and completely.”

Abdul said she worked as an aide to Cannon but had no involvement in the FBI’s investigation or Cannon’s arrest. She said she will not make any further statements because the investigation is ongoing.

Cannon is accused of taking $48,000 in cash and gifts in exchange for promising to use his influence to help undercover agents posing as out-of-town developers interested in building in Charlotte.

The search warrant unsealed last week said the FBI had collected a printed Feb. 19 email from Abdul to Cannon’s mayoral scheduler, Peggy Huffman.

The date of the email matches a key moment in the FBI affidavit: the day Cannon allegedly talked to an undercover agent to arrange a meeting two days later in the mayor’s office with another agent posing as a potential investor. The undercover agent told Cannon that he planned to drive the investor around Charlotte and show him the proposed Gold and Blue Line routes “to assess possible development opportunities.”

Why the FBI was interested in the particular email with Abdul is unclear.

The affidavit says the Feb. 21 meeting ended with Cannon taking a briefcase stuffed with $20,000 in cash.

The affidavit refers to a campaign aide who is Abdul but doesn’t use her name.

Cannon had suggested the undercover agent use Abdul for real estate help, the affidavit says. In October, Abdul also sent the agents a text message “on behalf of Cannon,” asking for a key to a SouthPark apartment the agents were renting, according to the affidavit.

Agents reported that Cannon was seen visiting the apartment twice after receiving a key in December, though the affidavit doesn’t say who, if anyone, he was with.

Abdul’s statement echoed comments she made last week to the Observer in which she said she had not been contacted by the FBI nor visited the SouthPark apartment.

On a LinkedIn page that was visible last week but not this week, Abdul described herself as development director at Urban Equity Advisors, a real estate firm. The company’s Facebook page gives an address at an uptown small-business incubator, but the company is no longer located there.

On her website, Abdul wrote that she is a Detroit native, an entrepreneur, poet, author, music writer, radio host and a filmmaker. She said she came to Charlotte in 2011.

The Cannon campaign paid Abdul $1,000 on Nov. 19 for work as a campaign volunteer, according to campaign finance reports.

Several top Cannon campaign aides contacted by the Observer said they have not been interviewed by investigators. Cannon’s former campaign manager, treasurer, communications director and office manager said they have not been contacted by the FBI.

Among campaign staff, Colleen Brannan’s public relations firm, Branstorm, received the most money in the last election cycle – about $21,000, according to an Observer review of campaign finance reports. In March, the city hired Brannan as a communications consultant on a 10-month contract for $87,500.

After Cannon’s arrest, she ended the contract.

Staff writers Ely Portillo, Steve Harrison and Mike Gordon contributed.

Rothacker: 704-358-5170; Twitter: @rickrothacker
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