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New details revealed on ‘Firehouse’ sting

HISTORIC_FIREHOUSE
GARY O’BRIEN - OBSERVER FILE PHOTO
Charlotte Fire Station No. 4, located at the intersection of North Church and Fifth Streets in uptown Charlotte, as it looked in 2008. It was home to three busy fire companies that responded to calls in downtown and west Charlotte until it was closed in 1973.

When undercover FBI agents were constructing a ruse to attract Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon, they posed as businessmen trying to open a nightclub or bar.

According to a document unsealed Monday, an undercover agent in 2012 and 2013 had numerous conversations with Cannon about a possible location, and then settled on a property that they called the “Firehouse.”

The property had parking problems and would require zoning changes, “potentially requiring Cannon’s influence and intervention,” the federal document says.

According to a conversation referenced in the document, Cannon told a city employee that the property is an old firehouse at Fifth and Graham streets. A property known as Charlotte Fire Station No. 4 is located at 420 West Fifth St.

In July 2013, Cannon called a city employee and asked him to call the undercover agent and “field some of his questions” about the property. County records show the property owner is Preferred Parking Service, a competitor to the parking company Cannon founded.

The city employee is not identified but Cannon addresses him as a “brother in Greekdom.” Cannon is a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

Days later, the employee left a message on the agent’s mobile phone, according to the document. The agent called back and they discussed the property and “residential setbacks that might preclude outdoor entertainment,” according to the bill of information.

They also discussed “the possibility of getting waivers for outdoor entertainment and contacting persons with responsibility and oversight of building code compliance,” according to the document.

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