Washington Political Consultant Pleads Guilty in Fraud and Corruption Scheme
Political consultant Thomas Lindenfeld, 59, of Washington, D.C., pleaded guilty today in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role in a fraud and corruption scheme related to illegal campaign contributions.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Hanko of the FBI’s Philadelphia Field Office and Acting Special Agent in Charge Richard Gross of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) made the announcement.
According to admissions in his plea agreement, Lindenfeld agreed to route an illegal $1 million political contribution for “Elected Official A” during a 2007 campaign for elected office. The contribution was in the form of a loan routed through Lindenfeld’s political consulting firm, LSG Strategic Services Corporation (LSG). When the campaign donor attempted to collect on the outstanding balance of the $1 million loan, however, Lindenfeld and his co-conspirators, at the direction of Elected Official A, engaged in a complicated series of transactions using federal grant money and monies from Sallie Mae’s charitable arm illegally to repay the loan. These transactions were routed through several entities, including LSG, and were all falsely labeled as payments for services that were never actually rendered.
Lindenfeld admitted that, in exchange for the work he had done on the campaign, which included concealing the illegal campaign contribution, Elected Official A agreed to use his elected position to steer federal funding to Lindenfeld’s proposed environmental advocacy group, Blue Guardians. Lindenfeld further admitted that he created Blue Guardians at the direction of Elected Official A for the purpose of receiving the federal funding.
According to Lindenfeld, Elected Official A advocated for $15 million in federal funding for Blue Guardians as a reward for Lindenfeld’s services. Five hundred thousand dollars was approved in 2009 as an earmark through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Lindenfeld admitted, however, that the Blue Guardians did not exist in December 2009, and that he only created an email address, articles of incorporation, and a tax identification number for Blue Guardians in April 2010. After receiving questions from NOAA and members of the press, Lindenfeld declined the funding, stating that he and Elected Official A decided it could be better spent on the oil spill in the Gulf. NOAA did not disburse the $500,000 to Lindenfeld or Blue Guardians.
U.S. District Court Judge Harvey Bartle III scheduled a sentencing hearing for March 25, 2015.
The case is being investigated by the FBI and the IRS-CI with assistance provided by NASA’s Office of Inspector General and the Department of Commerce’s Office of Inspector General. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul L. Gray of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and Trial Attorney Eric L. Gibson of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.