The one-time St. Johns County Commission Chairman, Thomas G. Manuel, now a convicted felon in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, has been returned to Florida in preparation for his release; scheduled for next month.
In 2008, the 66 year-old Garden City, Long Island, native was videotaped taking $60,000 in political payola from FBI informant Bruce Robbins of The Falcone Group during a dinner meeting at Giovanni’s restaurant in Jacksonville Beach.
News reporters saw federal agents detain Manuel in the restaurant parking lot — sparking controversy when St. Johns County Sheriff, David B. Shoar, confirmed what they had witnessed.
Manuel first denied the charges against him; alleging that he intended to inform police about Robbins’ offer of money in exchange for support for the Twin Creek developer’s projects. Manuel said the Sheriff illegally leaked the FBI investigation story to the media — precluding him from becoming an effective informant.
Manuel’s name in lights, his face on television and voice on political radio programs, ended on January 28, 2010, when U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan sentenced him to serve 21 months in federal prison followed by 16 months of home detention.
“Ultimately I have to take responsibility for my actions. They didn’t force me to take those envelopes. I took them,” Manuel said at his sentencing hearing. “There were so many instances where I could have reversed it all.”
Manuel surrendered himself to begin his prison sentence at the U.S. federal prison complex located in Butner, North Carolina.
The Orlando Community Corrections Management Office in Wildwood confirmed for Historic City News that Manuel was in custody at their facility and would be placed on home detention at the end of his prison term.
“Home detention is a generic term used to cover all circumstances under which an inmate is required to remain at home during non-working hours of the day,” according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. “Manuel will serve this portion of his sentences at home under strict schedules and curfew requirements.”
Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News archive photograph