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Two plead guilty in Bristol utilities corruption case

A former CEO of the Bristol utilities authority and a former outside contractor both pleaded guilty Tuesday, acknowledging that companies doing business with the authority were expected to feather the nests of top executives.

The government said former utility CEO Wes Rosenbalm entered his plea in U.S. District Court in Abingdon.

Evidence presented by U.S. prosecutors showed that the Johnson City, Tennessee, man and others evaded income taxes and conspired to solicit kickbacks for the awarding of contracts to vendors of the utility. Among the solicitations by Rosenbalm were tickets to Kentucky basketball games.

Rosenbalm, 45, has agreed to pay restitution and other payments totaling approximately $200,000, and he also faces fines.

At his sentencing, he could get up to five years in prison.

Rosenbalm was CEO at the authority for 11 years, ending in January 2014.

In a separate case, a former communications contractor for the utility ended up with twice the prison sentence he had bargained for.

When lawyers first presented a one-year plea deal for James Todd Edwards of South Carolina, U.S. District Judge James P. Jones objected. He scheduled another hearing for July 31.

Within an hour, however, Edwards and his attorney, Thomas Bondurant of Roanoke, agreed to return to the judge and accept whatever sentence Jones imposed, reported the Bristol Herald Courier.

Jones then ordered a two-year sentence, in line with penalties for two utilities executives that Edwards bribed with kickbacks.

Additional material from the Associated Press.

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