Jury Finds Congressional Campaign Finance Director Guilty Of Role In Illegal Contribution Scheme
Deirdre M. Daly, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Kimberly K. Mertz, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, today announced that a federal jury in New Haven has found ROBERT BRADDOCK, JR., 34, guilty of multiple offenses stemming from a scheme to direct illegal campaign contributions into the campaign of a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. The trial before U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton began on May 13 and the jury returned its verdict today after deliberating for approximately two hours.
“The evidence disclosed during this trial revealed a disturbing scheme operated by individuals who believed that our federal campaign finance laws are meaningless, and that the legislative process can be easily corrupted with campaign contributions,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Daly. “This case demonstrates exactly why our campaign finance laws exist in the first place, and why this system must be transparent. I thank the FBI for uncovering this scheme and their outstanding work during the course of this investigation. I am also proud of the efforts of our prosecution team.”
“Today’s guilty verdict is an important one because a jury of Mr. Braddock’s peers, registered voters from the State of Connecticut, has affirmed that pay-to-play schemes in the political arena will not be tolerated in their state,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Mertz. “Conspiring to conceal the origin of campaign donations is a serious criminal offense and those who knowingly accept conduit or straw contributions severely undermine the public’s belief in good, honest government.”
According to the trial evidence, court documents and statements made in court, in August 2011, the State of Connecticut applied for a court order enjoining Roll Your Own (“RYO”) smoke shops from continuing to operate without complying with state law governing tobacco manufacturers. RYO smoke shops are retail businesses that sell loose smoking tobacco and cigarette-rolling materials and offer customers the option of paying a “rental” fee to insert the loose tobacco and the rolling materials into a RYO machine, which is capable of rapidly rolling large quantities of cigarettes. Customers did not pay a tax on the RYO cigarettes when rolled by the RYO machines, in contrast to cigarettes purchased over-the-counter.
Paul Rogers and George Tirado co-owned Smoke House Tobacco, a RYO smoke shop with two locations in Waterbury. Fearing that the Connecticut General Assembly would enact legislation harmful to RYO smoke shop owners’ business interests during the 2012 legislative session, Rogers, Tirado, Harry Raymond “Ray” Soucy, David Moffa, Benjamin Hogan and others engaged in a scheme to direct conduit contributions into the campaign of Christopher Donovan, a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. At the time, Donovan was also the Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives. As part of the scheme, the co-conspirators recruited multiple individuals to serve as conduit contributors to the campaign. These individuals permitted checks to be written in their own names to the campaign, and certain conspirators reimbursed them with cash, thereby concealing the fact that RYO smoke shop owners were contributing to the campaign.
BRADDOCK, the Finance Director of the Donovan for Congress campaign, and Joshua Nassi, the Campaign Manager, knew that Soucy, Rogers and others opposed legislation that would harm the business interests of the RYO smoke shop owners. In November and December 2011, Rogers, Soucy, Tirado, Moffa, Hogan and others made four $2,500 conduit contributions to the Donovan for Congress campaign.
On April 3, 2012, Soucy contacted Nassi and told him that RYO owners wanted to provide additional contributions to the campaign. That same day, the Connecticut General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Finance, Revenue and Bonding voted in favor of Senate Bill 357, legislation that would have deemed RYO smoke shop owners to be tobacco manufacturers under Connecticut law, a designation that would have subjected RYO smoke shop owners to a substantial licensing fee and tax increase. Later that day, Soucy contacted Nassi again to state his displeasure with the vote.
On April 11, 2012, Soucy, Rogers and an FBI special agent working in an undercover capacity delivered four $2,500 checks in the names of conduit contributors to Nassi and Braddock. On April 23, 2012, Nassi advised Soucy that one of the checks had bounced and Soucy indicated that the contributor had been given cash to deposit. Nassi stated that the campaign needed the check by midnight the following day, and Soucy delivered a replacement check by that deadline. On May 2, 2012, the Campaign submitted a fundraising report to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) stating that the four contributions given in April were from the conduit contributors when, in fact, they were not.
Over the next two weeks, Nassi continued to advise Soucy on the status of the RYO legislation and Soucy told Nassi that he would be delivering an additional $10,000 if the legislation died. On May 9, 2012, the legislative session ended and the legislation had not been called for a vote by either chamber of the General Assembly.
On May 14, 2012, Soucy, Rogers and Hogan met at Smoke House Tobacco where Soucy provided Rogers with $10,000 in cash to be used to reimburse additional conduit contributors. Prior to the meeting, Hogan had approached Waterbury business owner Daniel Monteiro and an employee of Monteiro’s and asked them to serve as conduit contributors. Monteiro subsequently wrote a $2,500 check to the campaign, and his employee obtained a bank check in the amount of $2,500. Both were assured that they would be reimbursed. These two checks, and another $2,500 bank check drawn on Hogan’s own account but not in his name, were given to Soucy at the meeting. Also, at Nassi’s request, Rogers gave Soucy a fourth $2,500 check from a conduit contributor that was payable to a political party. Soucy delivered the four checks to Nassi at a political event later that day. As he was exiting the event, Soucy encountered BRADDOCK and stated that “twenty thousand was well worth it….And another ten grand.” BRADDOCK responded, “You’re the man.”
On May 15, 2012, BRADDOCK and Soucy had a telephone conversation related to the four conduit checks that Soucy had delivered the previous day, and BRADDOCK indicated that he needed additional identifying information for Benjamin Hogan for FEC reporting purposes. During the conversation, Soucy stated that a previous contributor “had bounced a check even though you put the money right in their hands.” He later stated, “…grabbing these drunks and drug addicts and say ‘Here, write this check…,” to which BRADDOCK responded, while laughing, “Hey, it works.”
Later that day, Soucy called BRADDOCK to inform him that Hogan was a RYO smoke shop “owner,” his check should not be deposited and that Soucy would provide a replacement check. BRADDOCK stopped the check from being deposited.
On May 16, 2012, Soucy met Nassi and provided him with a replacement $2,500 check in the name of someone who was not affiliated with any RYO shops.
In addition to the testimony of Soucy, Rogers, the undercover FBI special agent and others, the trial evidence included numerous audio and video conversations that were recorded during the course of the investigation.
BRADDOCK was found guilty of one count of conspiring to make false statements to the FEC and to defraud the U.S. by impeding the function of the FEC, one count of accepting more than $10,000 in federal campaign contributions made by persons in the names of others and one count of causing a false report to be filed with the FEC. Judge Arterton has scheduled sentencing for August 13, 2013, at which time BRADDOCK faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 12 years and a fine of up to $750,000.
Soucy, Rogers, Nassi, Moffa, Tirado, Hogan and Monteiro have pleaded guilty to charges related to this scheme and await sentencing.
This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Christopher M. Mattei and Eric J. Glover.
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