published Saturday, April 13th, 2013

South Pittsburg, Tenn., gambler agrees to plead guilty

A man prosecutors say ran gambling operations for the former mayor of South Pittsburg, Tenn., has agreed to plead guilty to a federal gambling charge.

Robert Barry Cole faces up to five years in prison on the charge of illegal gambling. He entered the plea agreement Monday, according to court documents. His sentencing date has not been set.

Mike Killian, former South Pittsburg mayor and brother of U.S. Attorney Bill Killian, agreed to plead guilty to the same charge in February. His arraignment hearing is scheduled for May 9.

Court records allege that Cole ran day-to-day sports betting schemes with Killian from 2002 until December 2012. Killian was mayor from 2005 until 2012.

Cole and Mike Killian split the proceeds evenly. Cole recorded bets, collected money, paid out winnings and managed an online sports betting website.

Prosecutors estimate gross revenue of $2,000 in a single day, according to records.

As part of the agreement, Cole will have to forfeit $19,000 seized from a safe at his South Pittsburg home, a computer and a ring appraised at $17,500.

Bill Killian's Chattanooga-based office, which oversees federal prosecutions for Tennessee's Eastern District, was recused from the case to avoid any conflicts.

Jack Smith, chief of the Washington, D.C.-based Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Justice Department, has overseen the case.

The Public Integrity Section investigates allegations of criminal conduct by public officials. Officials in the office have declined comment on specifics of pending legal actions.

As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors will not pursue any other potential criminal charges based on the facts of this case, according to court documents.

Both Mike Killian and Cole will have a presentencing review that will help U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier determine their punishment. That could range from as low as probation to as high as five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, restitution and forfeiture of assets.

Mike Killian also was charged with illegal gambling in connection with machines seized when FBI agents raided his Lotto Mart convenience store in South Pittsburg on Jan. 15. Agents also searched the Lil Store at 3644 Valley View Highway in Sequatchie, Tenn., and Richard City Food Market at 308 19th St., Richard City, Tenn.

They carted away a dozen video poker machines, which are illegal in Tennessee.

Prosecutors also seek forfeiture of $38,000 cash seized at the Lotto Mart.

Mike Killian was elected in 1980 to the Marion County Commission at age 23 but lost a 1984 re-election attempt. He again served on the commission after the 2002 election for one term before becoming South Pittsburg mayor in 2005.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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