Maryland State Senator Indicted On Additional Obstruction Of Justice Charge
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact ELIZABETH MORSE
www.justice.gov/usao/md at (410) 209-4885
Baltimore, Maryland – A federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment today charging Maryland State Senator Nathaniel Thomas Oaks, age 71, of Baltimore, Maryland, with obstruction of justice. Oaks had agreed to cooperate with the FBI by recording his conversations with the target of a new investigation. The superseding indictment alleges that Oaks tipped off the target thus thwarting the FBI investigation and obstructing justice. The original indictment charged Oaks with wire fraud, honest services wire fraud, and violations of the Travel Act in a scheme for allegedly accepting illegal payments in exchange for using his official position or influence to benefit an individual on business-related matters. Oaks’ trial is currently scheduled for April 16, 2018.
The superseding indictment was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Stephen M. Schenning and Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office.
According to the ten-count superseding indictment, Oaks was a Maryland State Delegate representing District 41 (Baltimore City) from 1994 until being appointed to the Maryland Senate in February 2017, representing the same District.
According to the new charge in the superseding indictment, on or about January 9, 2017, Oaks agreed to cooperate with the FBI in an investigation of Person #1 for possible violations of federal criminal laws. As part of that cooperation, and at the direction of the FBI, Oaks covertly recorded his telephone conversations and in-person meetings with Person #1 beginning on January 9, 2017 and continuing until March 30, 2017. Oaks knew and understood that in connection with the investigation of Person #1, he could be required to testify in a future official proceeding about his cooperation and his contacts with Person #1.
On or about March 17, 2017, without recording or disclosing the existence of the conversation to the FBI, Oaks approached Person #1 at a bar in Annapolis and told him “what we talked about, just say no.” On March 30, 2017, Oaks again approached Person #1 in the hallway of a State government building in Annapolis and said “I’m going to ask you for something, just say no.” The indictment charges that these statements were intended to dissuade Person #1 from engaging in the activity that was the subject of the criminal investigation and which activity Oaks and Person #1 had discussed in a recorded conversation earlier that day.
Person #1 understood from Oaks’ statements on March 17 and March 30, 2017, that Oaks was warning him not to engage in the activity because there was a criminal investigation underway.
The original indictment alleged that on September 21, 2015, a cooperating individual (the Cooperator) introduced Oaks to an FBI confidential human source (the CHS) who portrayed himself as an out-of-town businessperson interested in obtaining contracts in the City of Baltimore through a minority-owned business (the Company). The Company is a real business that is operated by a different cooperating defendant who is assisting the FBI with the investigation. The meeting took place at a restaurant in Pikesville, Maryland, and was consensually recorded by the Cooperator and the CHS. During the meeting, Oaks offered to assist the CHS with business development in Maryland.
During the months following the September 21, 2015 meeting between the CHS and Oaks, the CHS consensually recorded numerous telephone and in-person conversations with Oaks during which they discussed possible development and business-related opportunities that may be available to the CHS in Maryland. One such opportunity was a United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) project (the Project) that the CHS told Oaks that he was interested in developing in the City. Oaks told the CHS that he wanted to help with the HUD project.
According to the original indictment, between the months of April 2016 and July 2016, Oaks issued two letters on his official House of Delegates letterhead to a person whom he believed to be a HUD official which contained materially false and fraudulent representations in order to assist the CHS in obtaining federal grant funds from HUD. The CHS paid Oaks $10,300 for his assistance.
Further, the original indictment alleges that on September 22, 2016, the CHS paid Oaks $5,000 in exchange for Oaks’ agreement to file a bond bill request with the Maryland Department of Legislative Services (DLS) seeking $250,000 in state funds for the Project. Oaks filed the bill request with DLS later that day. On November 21, 2016, Oaks forwarded an email to the CHS that had been sent to him by DLS. The email attached the draft of the bill to establish a $250,000 bond to be used for the project.
All the money paid to Oaks by the CHS was supplied by the FBI and the meetings were recorded using audio/video recording equipment.
Oaks faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for each count of wire fraud; 20 years in prison for honest services wire fraud; five years in prison for each count of the Travel Act and 20 years in prison for the obstruction of justice. An initial appearance has not yet been scheduled in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
Acting United States Attorney Stephen M. Schenning commended the FBI for its work in the investigation. Mr. Schenning thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kathleen O. Gavin and Leo J. Wise, who are prosecuting the case.