FBI agent who led Clay County corruption investigation dies at 46

FBI Agent Tim Briggs. Photo Provided
FBI Agent Tim Briggs. Photo Provided

The FBI special agent who headed a watershed investigation into public corruption in Clay County has died.

Timothy S. Briggs, 46, apparently suffered a heart attack while jogging with another agent Tuesday near the FBI office in London.

The agent with Briggs and another person, and later emergency personnel and doctors, performed CPR on Briggs but could not revive him, said Greg Cox, supervisory special agent in the London office, where Briggs was assigned.

The Laurel County coroner said Briggs, a frequent runner, might have had a heart abnormality, Cox said.

Briggs was a dogged, hard-working investigator who was passionate about rooting out corruption and other crimes, said officials who worked with him.

"He had a tenacity about him that not a lot of investigators have," Cox said. "He would never let go."

The Clay County case began with a drug investigation that turned up evidence of vote-buying and corruption by public officials.

Task-force officers worked on various phases of the investigation for years. Briggs worked long hours on the complex case, chasing leads all over the country.

The case ultimately resulted in the conviction of more than 60 people on drug, vote-fraud and corruption charges, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen C. Smith, who prosecuted the cases.

"It took somebody with that kind of dedication to make that impact," Smith said. "It's a huge loss."

Those convicted on corruption charges included a former circuit judge, a former school superintendent, magistrates and city council members, a former mayor, a one-time assistant police chief and two county clerks.

There was a time when vote fraud and corruption were so pervasive in the county that many good people got discouraged and didn't get involved, but the investigation changed that, said Carmen Webb Lewis, mayor of Manchester from 2006 to 2010.

"It's changed a lot of people's lives," Lewis said of the case.

The case has won national awards.

Briggs investigated a variety of crimes in addition to the Clay County case, including a serial bank robbery case he aggressively pursued so the robbers could be charged not long before the deadline to do so passed, Smith said.

"He made a difference in his life with what he did" as a federal agent, said Frank Rapier, head of the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

Briggs also was on the FBI's SWAT team and the evidence-response team, said David Beyer, spokesman for the agency in Kentucky.

Briggs was married and had three young children. Friends said he was a devoted husband and father.

He had been with the FBI since February 1997, working all that time at the London office.

Beyer said the cases Briggs was investigating will be reassigned to other agents.

"The FBI will continue to vigorously address public corruption," Beyer said.