Campaign Manager Sentenced to 28 Months in Prison for Role in Conduit Contribution Scheme
|U.S. Attorney’s Office September 19, 2013|
Deirdre M. Daly, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Rhonda M. Glover, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced that Joshua Nassi, 35, formerly of Fairfield, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton in New Haven to 28 months of imprisonment, followed by one year of supervised release, for his role in a scheme to direct illegal campaign contributions into the campaign of a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. Nassi also was ordered to pay a $6,000 fine.
“Seeking to gain an edge in a high-pressure congressional campaign, this defendant traded promises of legislative action in exchange for illegal campaign contributions,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Daly. “His criminal behavior undermines the principles of transparency and fairness that are the bedrock of our electoral and political processes. We are confident that this prison term, along with those previously imposed in this case, send a clear message to campaign workers whose ethics may be tested.”
“Good honest government, for the people and by the people, has no room for the actions of political insiders like Mr. Nassi, who was willing to trade influence over pending legislation in exchange for contributions to a federal campaign that he was steering,” stated Acting FBI Special Agent in Charge Glover. “The election process in this country is the very foundation of democratic society and the integrity of that process must be protected. Today’s sentence is appropriate and just and serves as notice that the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are fully committed to investigating and prosecuting corruption at all levels of government.”
According to 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.
Fearing that the Connecticut General Assembly would enact legislation harmful to RYO smoke shop owners’ business interests during the 2012 legislative session, certain RYO smoke shop owners and their associates engaged in a scheme to direct conduit campaign 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 were then reimbursed with cash, thereby concealing the fact that RYO smoke shop owners were contributing to the campaign.
At the time, Nassi was the campaign manager for the Chris Donovan for Congress campaign.
In November and December 2011, participants in the scheme made four $2,500 conduit contributions to the Chris Donovan for Congress campaign. On approximately January 31, 2012, the campaign submitted to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) a report of campaign committee’s receipts and disbursements for the period October 1, 2011 through December 31, 2011. The report falsely stated the source and amount of the four $2,500 contributions that were received and deposited by the campaign committee during that time period.
On April 3, 2012, Harry “Ray” Soucy, who had helped facilitate the scheme and was now cooperating with law enforcement, 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.
Approximately one week later, Soucy, RYO smoke shop owner Paul Rogers, and an FBI special agent working in an undercover capacity delivered four $2,500 checks in the names of conduit contributors to Nassi. 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 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 $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 provided Rogers with $10,000 in cash to be used to reimburse additional conduit contributors. Soucy then collected three $2,500 checks made payable to the Donovan for Congress campaign from conduit contributors and, at Nassi’s request, one $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.
On May 16, 2012, Soucy informed the Donovan for Congress campaign finance director Robert Braddock that one of the contributions had been made in the name of an RYO shop owner and should not be deposited, and Braddock stopped the check from being deposited. Soucy then met Nassi and provided him with a replacement $2,500 check in the name of someone who was not affiliated with any RYO shops.
On April 12, 2013, Nassi pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to make false statements to the Federal Election Commission and to impede the FEC’s enforcement of federal campaign finance laws.
Rogers, Soucy, Braddock, and four others have also been convicted of charges stemming from this scheme.
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.