DeKalb County business owner accuses embattled CEO of extortion - CBS46 News

DeKalb County business owner accuses embattled CEO of extortion

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DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis was indicted Tuesday on charges he solicited campaign contributions by using threats. The charges come as no surprise for one DeKalb County business owner.

Loretta Washington, owner of LCW Engineering incorporated, spoke to CBS Atlanta News exclusively Wednesday. She said she experienced Ellis' demands for campaign cash firsthand in early 2011.

"He called me quite a few times for campaign donations, which is not unusual," Washington said. "But he would call and I'd say. 'Well you know I'm really having a hard time in business right now and I'm really trying to keep the lights on.' And he would say, 'I need $2,500 I need $2,500.' I would say, 'I don't have it.'"

Fearful of being blacklisted, the owner of the small civil engineering firm asserts she wrote a check to Ellis' campaign for $250.

"I sent it in and a week later he calls back and says he needs more I said, 'Well, I don't have it, and this is unusual,'" Washington said.

So unusual that Washington became scared and called the FBI.

"They came and let me know that the term for it was financial extortion," said Washington.

Now Washington fears that other small firms that do business with DeKalb County may have experienced the same treatment from Ellis.

Washington hopes the county will take another at look pending contracts to make sure everything was properly awarded.

CBS Atlanta News contacted the FBI to confirm that agents had talked with Washington.

A bureau spokesman would not confirm but said late Wednesday that it's highly plausible.

He added agents investigate claims all the time and in some cases don't pursue because agents are aware of other ongoing probes.

CBS Atlanta News can tell you that Washington did not testify before the grand jury, though her claims are in line with the charges against Ellis.

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