Former Council Candidate Sentenced to 60 Days in Jail for Filing a False Statement on Campaign Finance Report
WASHINGTON—Jeff Smith, 40, of Washington, D.C., a former candidate for the Council of the District of Columbia, was sentenced today to 60 days in jail, in addition to a year of probation and a $10,000 fine, for filing a false and misleading report with the District of Columbia’s Office of Campaign Finance that concealed campaign contributions in excess of those permitted under D.C. campaign finance laws.
The sentencing was announced by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., Timothy A. Gallagher, Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and Thomas J. Kelly, Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).
Smith pled guilty to the felony charge in June 2014 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. He was sentenced by the Honorable Anita Josey-Herring. Judge Josey-Herring’s sentence imposes six months of incarceration, but suspends all but 60 days of the time; requires Smith to serve one year of probation, during which time he is to perform 400 hours of community service; and imposes a fine of $10,000, the statutory maximum for his offense.
The charge involved contributions to Smith’s 2010 campaign for the Ward 1 seat on the Council of the District of Columbia. Smith admitted that more than $140,000 was secretly channeled to his campaign from businessman Jeffrey E. Thompson. Smith lost the election.
Smith is one of two Council candidates to plead guilty to charges in recent months. Kelvin Robinson, 53, pled guilty on June 3, 2014, in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to a charge of conspiring to violate District of Columbia campaign finance laws by defrauding the District of Columbia’s Office of Campaign Finance. He is awaiting sentencing.
Thompson is the former chairman, chief executive officer, and majority owner of Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio and Associates (TCBA), a corporation that provided accounting, management, consulting, and tax services. He also is the former chairman, chief executive officer, and owner of D.C. Healthcare Systems, Inc. (DCHSI), an investment holding and for-profit corporation. Both companies generated millions of dollars in government contracts.
Thompson and six others earlier pled guilty to charges involving Thompson’s illegal contributions to numerous federal and District of Columbia campaigns. In addition to Robinson, who also admitted receiving excess contributions from Thompson, the others who have pled guilty include Eugenia C. Harris, a business owner in the District of Columbia; Lee A. Calhoun, an executive for TCBA; Stanley Straughter, the owner of a business based in Philadelphia; Vernon Hawkins, who was a volunteer advisor in 2010 for a 2010 mayoral campaign; and Troy White, the owner of a marketing company based in New York.
Another person, former District of Columbia Council member Michael A. Brown, pled guilty to charges in an unrelated bribery investigation. In those proceedings, he publicly admitted that his campaign committees had secretly received money from Thompson.
As part of Thompson’s guilty plea, on March 10, 2014, he agreed to cooperate fully in an ongoing investigation. No date has been set for his sentencing.
“Jeff Smith now faces incarceration because he secretly financed his campaign for the District of Columbia Council with more than $140,000 from one of the District’s biggest contractors,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “He kept the true source of this money—businessman Jeffrey Thompson—from the public by filing false campaign reports. Despite all his illegal spending, Jeff Smith lost the election, and now his criminal activity has been exposed. He is among three candidates so far to admit receiving dirty money from Jeff Thompson, who has pled guilty to his crimes and is continuing to cooperate in our investigation. We remain determined to hold accountable all those who benefited from Jeff Thompson’s illegal campaign spending.”
“Accepting and concealing illegal contributions for a political campaign will not be overlooked or downplayed,” said Acting Assistant Director in Charge Gallagher. “Today, Mr. Smith accepted his penalty for undermining campaign finance laws in the District of Columbia. Together with our law enforcement partners, the FBI will continue to investigate corruption, no matter at what level, in the District of Columbia.”
According to a statement of offense submitted as part of Smith’s guilty plea, from at least December 2009 through December 2010, Smith, Thompson and others acted to make and to receive—and to conceal—campaign contributions in excess of those permitted under the District of Columbia Campaign Act.
Smith admitted that Thompson, with his knowledge, provided more than $140,000 of in-kind contributions, contributions which were concealed from the Office of Campaign Finance. Smith provided a budget to Thompson in March 2010, seeking $140,975 for voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts for his campaign. Then, from March 2010 until September 2010, Thompson used funds, via TCBA and DCHSI, to provide more than $140,000 in coordination with and in support of Smith’s campaign committee. At least part of this money was spent on campaign services and materials.
The District of Columbia Campaign Act imposes limits on the amount of money that can be contributed to a District of Columbia candidate and that candidate’s principal campaign committee. It also prohibits any person or corporation from making a contribution in the name of another, including by reimbursement. Finally, it requires principal campaign committees to file periodic reports of receipts and disbursements.
The law limits the amount that an individual or entity can contribute in the aggregate in the primary and general elections of a candidate seeking election to a Ward seat to $500.
In his plea, Smith admitted that, acting on behalf of his campaign committee, he filed, that is, authorized to be filed, a false and misleading report to the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance in December 2010. The report concealed the excessive and unreported in-kind contributions provided directly and indirectly by Thompson.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen, Acting Assistant Director in Charge Gallagher, and Special Agent in Charge Kelly commended the work of those who investigated the case from the FBI’s Washington Field Office and IRS-CI.
They also expressed appreciation for the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael K. Atkinson, Jonathan P. Hooks, Ellen Chubin Epstein, Lionel André, and Ephraim “Fry” Wernick, of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, who are prosecuting cases in the investigation.
Finally, they acknowledged the efforts of others who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Deborah Connor, Chief of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section, as well as Criminal Investigators Matthew J. Kutz, Mark Crawford, Melissa Matthews, and Durand Odom; Forensic Accountants Crystal Boodoo and Maria Boodoo; Paralegal Specialists Krishawn Graham, Tasha Harris, and Corrine Kleinman; Former Paralegal Specialists Shanna Hays and Nicole Wattelet; and Legal Assistant Angela Lawrence.