FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact Bailey Drumm
www.justice.gov/usao/md at (410) 209-4885
Greenbelt, Maryland – United States District Judge Paula Xinis sentenced the former owner of a Prince George’s County liquor store, Shin Ja Lee, age 56, of Highland, Maryland, to twelve months and one day in prison, followed by three years of supervised release for bribery, in a scheme involving alcoholic beverage licenses in Prince George’s County, Maryland. The defendant also was ordered to forfeit $242,945.43, and to pay an additional fine of $50,000.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Acting Special Agent in Charge Kelly R. Jackson of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation; and Chief Henry P. Stawinski III of the Prince George’s County Police Department.
According to her plea agreement and other court documents, Lee was the owner of Palmer Liquor Store and the resident agent of Multi-Bil, Inc. Together with David Son, a former Commissioner on the Prince George’s County Board of License Commissioners (“Liquor Board”), and Young Paig, the former owner of Central Avenue Restaurant & Liquor Store in Prince George’s County, Lee paid bribe payments to two then-Maryland State Delegates, William Alberto Campos-Escobar (“Will Campos”) and Michael Vaughn. The bribes were in exchange for obtaining passage of legislation that permitted certain liquor stores in the County to sell liquor on Sundays (“Sunday Sales Bill”).
Lee participated in bribe payments on five separate occasions in 2015 and 2016. For example, on April 22, 2015, after the passage of the legislation, Son arranged a lunch between Campos, Paig, and Lee. A lobbyist and attorney, Matthew Gorman, also attended. During the lunch, Son told Campos to meet Paig in the men’s bathroom, saying that Paig was “going to hook you up.” In the men’s bathroom, Paig handed Campos an envelope containing a total of $4,000 cash, which constituted a bribe from Son, Paig, Lee, and Gorman. Later that same day, Son, Paig, and Lee made a cash bribe payment to Delegate Vaughn.
Lee and Paig subsequently talked to Son about getting beneficial legislation introduced related to the Sunday Sales bill and indicated that they would be willing to pay $50,000 to make that happen. Son spoke with Delegate Vaughn, who agreed to introduce additional legislation in the 2016 legislative session. On November 10, 2015, Son arranged for Paig and Lee to meet with Vaughn so they could make a “down payment.” After the meeting, law enforcement observed Paig and Vaughn get into Vaughn’s car, while Lee and Son waited in the parking lot. Shortly after Paig got out of the car, Vaughn drove directly to a bank in the same shopping center. Bank surveillance video shows Vaughn pulling a stack of cash out of his right pocket and handing it to the teller, and then doing the same from his left pocket. Bank records show that Vaughn deposited a total of $4,000.
Paig pleaded guilty to bribery and was sentenced to 41 months in prison. Campos pleaded guilty to conspiracy and bribery and was sentenced to 54 months in prison. Son pleaded guilty to conspiracy, bribery, and obstruction of justice and was sentenced to 60 months in prison. Gorman pleaded guilty and also is pending sentencing. Delegate Vaughn was convicted of bribery and conspiracy at a trial that concluded in March 2018, and is pending sentencing.
United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the FBI, the IRS-CI, and the Prince George’s County Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas P. Windom, who prosecuted the case.