Wolcott Man Sentenced to 26 Months in Federal Prison for Role in Illegal Campaign Contribution Scheme
|U.S. Attorney’s Office September 04, 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 George Tirado, 36, of Wolcott, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton in New Haven to 26 months of imprisonment, followed by one year of supervised release, for his participation in a scheme to direct illegal campaign contributions into the campaign of a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. Tirado was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine. At the time of the offense, Tirado was the co-owner of a Roll Your Own (RYO) smoke shop while also serving as a detective with the Waterbury Police Department.
“A substantial prison term is warranted for any individual who violates federal campaign finance laws in order to influence elected officials for personal gain,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Daly. “That this defendant was a veteran police detective who ignored his oath and broke the law makes this sentence even more appropriate.”
“Today’s sentence sends a clear message to those of us who are sworn to uphold the law, that no one is above the law,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Mertz. “It should be an honor and privilege to protect and serve the public. Instead, George Tirado betrayed his oath of honor when he conspired with others to direct illegal campaign contributions. This conduct threatens to undermine both the public’s faith in the election process and in law enforcement.”
According to court documents and statements made in court, in August 2011, the state of Connecticut applied for a court order enjoining 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 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 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 Christopher Donovan for Congress campaign committee submitted to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) a report of the 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.
During today’s sentencing, Judge Arterton also found that Tirado lied to FBI special agents investigating this scheme during an interview that was conducted on June 4, 2012.
On April 19, 2013, 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.
Rogers, Soucy, and five others, including two employees of the Donovan for Congress campaign, 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.