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Washington D.C. former council member pleads guilty to bribery

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former District of Columbia city council member pleaded guilty on Monday to a federal bribery charge in the latest financial scandal involving local officials in the U.S. capital.

Michael Brown, the son of late U.S. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, was charged on Friday with taking $55,000 from businessmen while in office in exchange for helping them get a government contracting certification. The businessmen were undercover FBI agents.

"Guilty, your honor," Brown, 48, said when U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins asked him how he pleaded.

Under the plea accord, Brown, a Democrat who lost his seat in the November 2012 election, faces up to 37 months in prison and forfeiture of $35,000 he collected before agents confronted him. Wilkins set sentencing for October 3.

In a second scheme, Brown also admitted concealing the source of $20,000 that was secretly contributed to his failed 2007 bid for a council seat, the U.S. Attorney's office said in a statement. Under the plea agreement, Brown will not be prosecuted for that scheme.

The bribery charge is the third prosecution of a District of Columbia council member in little more than a year. Former Chairman Kwame Brown pleaded guilty in November 2012 to a felony bank fraud, and Harry Thomas Jr. admitted in May 2012 to stealing $353,000 from city-funded youth programs.

As part of an ongoing federal probe, two workers in Mayor Vincent Gray's 2010 election campaign also pleaded guilty last year to paying a minor mayoral candidate to disparage incumbent Adrian Fenty in the Democratic primary.

A former Gray consultant pleaded guilty in 2012 to helping hide about $650,000 in undisclosed campaign funds from a city contractor.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Christopher Wilson)

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