Wade on Birmingham

Birmingham’s Biggest Crooks: John Katopodis


In August, we’re celebrating Birmingham’s Biggest Crooks, whether they be liars, thieves, extortionists, swindlers or thugs. A 30-part series running daily until Birmingham mayor Larry Langford’s Aug. 31 Oct. 19 federal trial. Thanks to Bhamwiki for helping with this project.

John Katopodis

John KatopodisPositions held: president of Birmingham city Council; Jefferson County commissioner; chairman of the Birmingham Regional Planning Commission; secretary of the Alabama Republican Party; co-founder of nonprofit organization Computer Help for Kids along with Richard Scrushy and Langford

Wanted for: mail and wire fraud

Date of conviction: July 1

Sentence: To be sentenced Oct. 28. Katopodis, convicted on 97 counts, faces up to 20 years per count and forfeiture of $162,910.

Criminally fun fact: Katopodis wrote a couple of books while at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government: “Resegregation in the South: the Case of Sumter County, Georgia” (1975) and “Pre-school in Sweden: The Formation and Implementation of a National Policy” (1977).

Katopodis was involved in the founding of Southside’s EPIC School and the McWane Science Center, as well as leading the drive for the Alabama School of Fine Arts’ current facility, opened in 1993.

He had a ring made with the Kennedy family crest on it to present to John Kennedy Jr. in 1995. Katopodis hid it in a pouch of Red Man chewing tobacco, telling Kennedy, “It’s redneck Cracker Jack: There’s always a surprise inside.

His downfall was from spending $250,000 of Computer Help for Kids’ $815,000 in donations.

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