The United States Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that former Pennsylvania State Treasurer Robert M. McCord pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted extortion in violation of Title 18, United States Code Section 1951(a).
Each count is punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment and fine of up to $250,000. U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones, III, accepted the guilty plea and scheduled a pre-sentence conference for June 29, 2015.
Mr. McCord admitted that he attempted to extort campaign contributions from a law firm and a property management company while he was running for Governor by threatening economic harm to the potential donors if they failed to make sufficient campaign contributions. In particular, McCord threatened to use his position as State Treasurer to interfere with the business that the law firm and property management firm were conducting with the state if they did not make the contributions.
First Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis C. Pfannenschmidt was designated United States Attorney for this case because United States Attorney Peter J. Smith recused himself. Mr. Smith previously worked for Mr. McCord for a short period of time at the Pennsylvania Treasury Department.
Mr. Pfannenschmidt stated that “public corruption cases are some of the most serious cases our office handles and this case indicates a serious breach of the public trust. Our office is committed to working with our law enforcement partners in holding public officials responsible for their violation of the public trust.”
“The citizens of the Commonwealth expect and deserve public officials who perform their duties free of deceit, favoritism, bias, self-enrichment, concealment and conflict of interest,” said Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Hanko of the Philadelphia Division of the FBI. “Public corruption is an erosion of the public’s trust in our system of government, and the FBI stands committed to holding public officials accountable when they violate their oaths of office and betray that trust.”
"The abuse of power by elected officials tears at the fabric of society, undermines the rule of law and weakens public confidence in government," said Major Andrew Ashmar, Pennsylvania State Police, Bureau of Criminal Investigation. "The Pennsylvania State Police is steadfast in our commitment to bring to justice those who use the power of their office for personal gain rather than serving the best interest of the public."
“When our public officials fail to uphold the integrity of the office to which they were elected, the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division is committed to working with our fellow law enforcement agencies to restore the public’s trust,” said Special Agent in Charge Akeia Conner.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Pennsylvania State Police, and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division. The prosecution is assigned to Assistant United States Attorneys Michael A. Consiglio, William S. Houser, and Gordon A. D. Zubrod.
Indictments and Criminal Informations are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.
A sentence following a finding of guilty is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
In this case, the maximum penalty under the federal statute is 20 years’ imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant’s educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.