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Atlanta power player Mitzi Bickers indicted on bribery, money laundering, other charges

Bickers is free on a $50,000 bond after her initial court appearance on Thursday.

ATLANTA - One of the key figures in former Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed's administration has been indicted on multiple charges by a federal grand jury, the latest development in a $1-million bribery scandal that cast a shadow over Reed's final months in office.

Mitzi Bickers, who served as head of the city’s Department of Human Services, has been indicted on two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery, three counts of money laundering; three counts of wire fraud; one count of witness tampering; and one count of filing false tax returns.

In her first court appearance on Thursday morning, Bickers pled not guilty and was freed on $50,000 bond. Her next court date is set for April 16 at 2 pm.

U.S. attorneys said Thursday there is a small window for those who took money from Bickers to turn themselves in.

The indictments allege two city contractors, Elvin Mitchell and Charles P. Richards, agreed to pay bribes to Bickers to secure city contracts for their businesses.

Richards admitted to paying about $200,000 in bribes to a city hall official, and has been sentenced to 27 months in prison. Mitchell, who admitted paying $1 million in bribes to a city hall official, is serving a five-year sentence.

Adam Smith, the city's former chief procurement officers, also admitted to accepting $30,000 in bribes from a contactor in exchange for influencing construction contracts.

Bickers, who has been a focus of prosecutors since August 2016, ran the Department of Human Services from 2010 to 2013. Her duties included running city programs to help the homeless and distributing federal and local funding to homeless shelters and other service organizations. She left her job with the city after allegations that she lied about how much money she was bringing in on the side.

A federal subpoena, part of 1.4 million documents released by the city, shows federal investigators started looking into Bickers beginning in August 2016, three months before feds asked for information about Mitchell and Richards.

Bickers, who serves as pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church, has had her hands on every branch of Atlanta government.

In 2003 she ran unsuccessfully for chair of the Fulton County Commission. She was also president of the Atlanta School Board. And in 2009, she helped Reed win a razor-thin election.