Congressional Campaign Worker Sentenced to 38 Months in Prison for Role in Illegal Contribution Scheme
|U.S. Attorney’s Office August 27, 2013|
Deirdre M. Daly, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Kimberly K. Mertz, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced that Robert Braddock, Jr., 34, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Janet Bond Arterton in New Haven to 38 months of imprisonment, followed by one year of supervised release, for participating in a scheme to direct illegal campaign contributions into the campaign of a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. Braddock was also ordered to pay a $7,500 fine.
“In imposing this sentence, the court has made clear the risks of violating federal campaign laws,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Daly. “These corrupt acts erode our trust in the integrity of our democratic electoral system. Transparency in our elections and the legislative process is critical to ensuring honest government. Federal law enforcement will not sit by as individuals attempt to buy the influence of elected officials for personal gain. I applaud the excellent work of the FBI and our prosecution team in bringing this case to justice.”
“This sentence sends a message that knowingly concealing the origin of campaign contributions is a serious crime which cannot and will not be tolerated,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Mertz. “Hopefully, those inclined to disregard campaign finance laws and diminish the voting public’s faith in our election process will be deterred by taking notice that federal prison is a very real possibility.”
On May 21, 2013, a jury convicted Braddock of one count of conspiring to make false statements to the FEC and to defraud the U.S. by impeding the function of the FEC, one count of accepting more than $10,000 in federal campaign contributions made by persons in the names of others, and one count of causing a false report to be filed with the FEC.
According to the trial evidence, 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.
Paul Rogers and George Tirado co-owned Smoke House Tobacco, a RYO smoke shop with two locations in Waterbury. Fearing that the Connecticut General Assembly would enact legislation harmful to RYO smoke shop owners’ business interests during the 2012 legislative session, Rogers, Tirado, Harry Raymond “Ray” Soucy, David Moffa, Benjamin Hogan, and others engaged in a scheme to direct conduit 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 certain conspirators reimbursed them with cash, thereby concealing the fact that RYO smoke shop owners were contributing to the campaign.
Braddock, the finance director of the Donovan for Congress campaign, and Joshua Nassi, the campaign manager, knew that Soucy, Rogers, and others opposed legislation that would harm the business interests of the RYO smoke shop owners. In November and December 2011, Rogers, Soucy, Tirado, Moffa, Hogan, and others made four $2,500 conduit contributions to the Donovan for Congress campaign.
On April 3, 2012, Soucy 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.
On April 11, 2012, Soucy, Rogers, and an FBI special agent working in an undercover capacity delivered four $2,500 checks in the names of conduit contributors to Nassi and Braddock. 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 Federal Election Commission (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 an additional $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, Rogers, and Hogan met at Smoke House Tobacco where Soucy provided Rogers with $10,000 in cash to be used to reimburse additional conduit contributors. Prior to the meeting, Hogan had approached Waterbury business owner Daniel Monteiro and an employee of Monteiro’s and asked them to serve as conduit contributors. Monteiro subsequently wrote a $2,500 check to the campaign, and his employee obtained a bank check in the amount of $2,500. Both were assured that they would be reimbursed. These two checks, and another $2,500 bank check drawn on Hogan’s own account but not in his name, were given to Soucy at the meeting. Also, at Nassi’s request, Rogers gave Soucy a fourth $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. As he was exiting the event, Soucy encountered Braddock and stated that “20,000 was well worth it...And another 10 grand.” Braddock responded, “You’re the man.”
On May 15, 2012, Braddock and Soucy had a telephone conversation related to the four conduit checks that Soucy had delivered the previous day, and Braddock indicated that he needed additional identifying information for Benjamin Hogan for FEC reporting purposes. During the conversation, Soucy stated that a previous contributor “had bounced a check even though you put the money right in their hands.” He later stated, “…grabbing these drunks and drug addicts and say ‘Here, write this check…,” to which Braddock responded, while laughing, “Hey, it works.”
Later that day, Soucy called Braddock to inform him that Hogan was a RYO smoke shop “owner,” his check should not be deposited, and that Soucy would provide a replacement check. Braddock stopped the check from being deposited.
On May 16, 2012, Soucy met Nassi and provided him with a replacement $2,500 check in the name of someone who was not affiliated with any RYO shops.
In addition to the testimony of Soucy, Rogers, the undercover FBI special agent, and others, the trial evidence included numerous audio and video conversations that were recorded during the course of the investigation.
Soucy, Rogers, Nassi, Moffa, Tirado, Hogan, and Monteiro each pleaded guilty to charges related to this scheme. On June 12, 2013, Moffa was sentenced to 24 months of imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. The other defendants await sentencing.
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.