Wolcott Man Admits Role in Illegal Campaign Contribution Scheme
|U.S. Attorney’s Office April 19, 2013|
David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut announced that George Tirado, 36, of Wolcott, pleaded guilty today before United States District Judge Janet Bond Arterton in New Haven to a federal conspiracy charge stemming from a scheme to direct illegal campaign contributions into the campaign of a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives.
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.
Tirado and Paul Rogers 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, Tirado, Rogers, Harry Raymond “Ray” Soucy, and others engaged in a scheme to direct conduit campaign contributions into the campaign of a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. The candidate was also a member of the Connecticut General Assembly. 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 reimbursed with cash, thereby concealing the fact that RYO smoke shop owners were contributing to the campaign.
On November 15, 2011, Tirado obtained a signed blank check from one of his smoke shop employees. Tirado then made the check payable to the campaign in the amount of $2,500 and assured the employee that she would be reimbursed. That same evening, Tirado attended a campaign fundraising event where he completed a contribution form in the employee’s name. The contribution form contained a representation that the contribution was being funded by the individual named on the form. He then provided the check to Rogers who delivered it to a campaign employee.
The next morning, Tirado provided another conduit contribution in the amount of $2,500 to Soucy prior to a meeting that they had scheduled with the candidate. Soucy then gave the check to a campaign employee.
On November 21, 2011, Tirado deposited $2,500 in cash into the checking account of the employee who had served as a conduit contributor on November 15. The $2,500 came from the business proceeds of Smoke House Tobacco.
In December 2011, Rogers, Soucy, and others attended another fundraising event and delivered two more $2,500 conduit contributions to the campaign.
On approximately January 31, 2012, the Campaign Committee submitted to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) a report of the 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.
In the spring of 2012, the conspirators made additional illegal campaign contributions totaling $17,500.
Tirado pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to make false statements to the FEC and to impede the FEC’s enforcement of federal campaign finance laws. Judge Arterton has scheduled sentencing for July 23, 2013, at which time Tirado faces a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of up to $250,000.
Rogers, Soucy, and four others, including Joshua Nassi, who served as the campaign manager for the campaign of the candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, have also pleaded guilty to charges related to this scheme and 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.