The federal government today indicted seven people connected to the Chris Donovan campaign, charged with conspiracy and other federal offenses related to a campaign contribution scheme.
Those indicted are accused of acting to conceal the source of campaign contributions that came from people who had interest in stopping proposed state legislation that could be harmful to roll your own tobacco shops, as it would have subjected them to substantial licensing fees and tax increases.
The following information comes from a news release from the offices David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Kimberly K. Mertz, special agent in charge of the New Haven Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
On Wednesday, a federal grand jury sitting in New Haven returned a superseding indictment charging:
- Robert Braddock, Jr., 33, of Meriden, the former finance director for a campaign of a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives;
- Benjamin Hogan, a.k.a. “Benny,” 33, of Southington, an employee of Smoke House Tobacco, a roll-your-own smoke shop with two locations in Waterbury;
- David Moffa aka “Moff” and “Buffalo” 52, of Middlebury, the former president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Local 387, representing employees of the Connecticut Department of Correction;
- Daniel Monteiro, 33, of Wolcott, a Naugatuck native and owner of a company located in Waterbury;
- Joshua Nassi, 34, of Fairfield, the former Campaign Manager for the campaign of the candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives;
- Paul Rogers, a.k.a. “Paulie,” 39, of Watertown, a co-owner of Smoke House Tobacco, and
- George Tirado, 35, of Waterbury, a co-owner of Smoke House Tobacco.
The superseding indictment was unsealed today. Hogan, Moffa, Nassi, Rogers and Tirado were expected to appear today at 2 p.m. today before United States Magistrate Judge Joan G. Margolis in New Haven. Monteiro is out of state and his initial appearance has not been scheduled. Braddock was arrested on a federal criminal complaint on May 30, 2012, and was charged by indictment on July 11, 2012.
Also, Harry “Ray” Soucy, 60, of May Street, Naugatuck, pleaded guilty today with conspiring to direct $27,500 in conduit campaign contributions to the Donovan campaign.
When sentenced, Soucy faces a maxium term of 20 years in prison on an honest services fraud conviction and a maximum of five years on a conspiracy conviction.
The purpose of the conduit contributions, which are contributions made by one person in the name of another person, was to conceal the fact that the individuals who were actually financing the payments had an interest in the legislation, which was expected to be introduced, and eventually was introduced, before the Connecticut General Assembly during the 2012 legislative session, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Soucy, a former employee of the Connecticut Department of Correction who also served in a union leadership position as treasurer of AFSCME, Local 387, officially pleaded guilty on Tuesday before a grand jury to one count of devising a scheme to bribe a public official and one count of conspiring to make false statements to the Federal Election Commission and impede the FEC’s enforcement of campaign finance laws.
According to published reports, Soucy had been identified as the middleman who helped organize the fake donor scheme.
Soucy cooperated with federal authorities after checks written by his mother, Anne Soucy, were discovered. Republicans in the House of Representatives who oversee the PACs to which the checks were written have also returned checks to Anne Soucy.
The Republican-American of Waterbury has reported that Soucy has retired after being placed on paid leave and that he’s seeking a disability pension. (Note: More information about Soucy's involvement provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office is attached to this article as a PDF.)
“This indictment represents the Department of Justice’s commitment to investigate and prosecute those who aim to corrupt our system of government and the electoral process,” stated U.S. Attorney Fein in the news release. “Eight individuals have been charged with conspiring to disguise the source of contributions to a federal campaign in order to conceal a corrupt effort to influence legislation pending before the Connecticut General Assembly. By trying to conceal $27,500 in campaign contributions, as alleged in the indictment, the conspirators struck at the principles of transparency and fairness embodied in our campaign finance laws and upon which the integrity of our electoral system relies. Mr. Soucy’s guilty plea to bribery and false statement charges attests to the FBI’s thorough investigation, which is ongoing.”
“These indictments and arrests represent the FBI’s steadfast commitment to public corruption investigations,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Mertz in the news release. “Conspiring to conceal the origin of campaign contributions through straw donors undermines the integrity of the electoral process. Engaging in a scheme to bribe an elected public official is unconscionable and destroys the peoples’ faith in a system of government, which should be for all, not just for those who are willing to pay. The FBI will continue to investigate not only this matter but corruption at all levels of government.”
According to the indictment, 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 do not pay a tax on the RYO cigarettes when rolled by the RYO machines, in contrast to cigarettes purchased over-the-counter.
The indictment alleges that, in 2011, Moffa, Soucy, and certain RYO smoke shop owners, including Tirado and Rogers began to discuss the possibility that the Connecticut General Assembly would enact legislation harmful to RYO smoke shop owners’ business interests during the 2012 legislative session. In November 2011, the co-conspirators began to deliver to the campaign, through Braddock, checks in the amount of $2,500, which were, in fact, conduit contributions. Typically, the contributors were reimbursed with cash from Rogers and other RYO shop owners. In November and December 2011, four $2,500 conduit contributions were made to the campaign. One of the conduit contributions was delivered to Braddock immediately prior to a meeting between certain co-conspirators, the member of the General Assembly (Donovan) and Braddock.
The indictment further alleges that, on April 3, 2012, 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. On the day of the vote, Soucy contacted Nassi, who then communicated with (Donovan's) legislative aide about the status of Senate Bill 357. Approximately, one week later, Soucy, Rogers and an FBI special agent working in an undercover capacity delivered four additional $2,500 checks in the names of conduit contributors to Nassi and Braddock at a restaurant in Southington.
NASSI continued to communicate with the legislative aid about the RYO legislation. 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.
The indictment alleges that, on May 14, 2012, Soucy, Rogers and Hogan met at Smoke House Tobacco. During the meeting, Soucy provided Rogers with $10,000 in cash and Rogers, in turn, provided Soucy with three $2,500 checks made payable to the campaign. Monteiro had provided one of the checks in exchange for $2,500 in U.S. currency, and one of Monteiro’s employees had provided another check in exchange for reimbursement. Hogan provided the third check, a cashier’s check payable to the campaign that Hogan had drawn from his personal account. At Nassi’s request, Rogers gave Soucy a fourth $2,500 check from a conduit contributor that was payable to a political party. Soucy then delivered the four checks to Nassi and Braddock at a political event.
It is further alleged that, after Soucy informed Braddock the next day that one of the contributions had been made in the name of an RYO shop owner, Braddock arranged for the check not to be deposited into the campaign’s bank account. Soucy and Nassi then met at a restaurant in Southington on May 16. At that meeting, SOUCY provided Nassi with a replacement $2,500 check in the name of one of Monteiro’s employees, who was not affiliated with any RYO shops.
The indictment charges Braddock, Hogan, Moffa, Monteiro, Nassi, Rogers and Tirado with conspiring to make false statements to the FEC and to defraud the United States by impeding the function of the FEC, a charge that carries a maximum term of five years and a fine of up to $250,000. Braddock, Nassi and Rogers are charged with accepting more than $10,000 in federal campaign contributions made by persons in the names of others, a charge that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of two years and a fine of up to $250,000. Braddock, Nassi, Moffa, Rogers and Tirado are charged with causing false reports to be filed with the FEC, and Moffa and Tirado are charged with making false statements to FBI special agents. Each of these charges carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of up to $250,000. Finally, Rogers is charged with two counts of devising a scheme to defraud and deprive the citizens of the State of Connecticut of their right to the honest services of a public official through bribery, a charge that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000.
U.S. Attorney Fein stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
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.