Maryland lobbyist pleads guilty to bribing lawmaker

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The FBI conducted a search Jan. 5 at the Board of License Commissioners in Largo, Md. (Bonnie Jo Mount/Washington Post)

A Maryland lobbyist pleaded guilty Friday to bribing a state legislator in a wide-reaching scheme involving expanded liquor licenses in Prince George’s County.

Matthew Gorman, a 43-year-old Hyattsville attorney, entered a guilty plea in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt and admitted giving more than $5,000 in bribes to William A. Campos for political favors Campos did as a state and county elected official.

The payoffs were made after Campos agreed to intercede and help two businesses get or preserve their liquor licenses and for Campos’s backing of a bill to expand permits for Sunday liquor sales in the county, according to details in Gorman’s plea agreement.

Gorman, who worked to promote liquor businesses’ interests, pleaded guilty to one felony charge of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds.

Campos, a Hyattsville Democrat, pleaded guilty in January to accepting $40,000 to $50,000 from a number of sources in exchange for official action, in addition to directing more than $325,000 in public money intended for charitable giving toward those who gave him personal payments while he was on the Prince George’s County Council.

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Then-Prince George’s Council member Will Campos in 2014. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

A sentencing date has not been set for Campos, who was a councilman for a decade, ending in November 2014, and then was a state delegate from January 2015 until he resigned eight months later.

Gorman admitted several payoffs to Campos, details in his plea show.

On March 28, 2013, Gorman left a voice mail for Campos asking him to meet a client of Gorman’s for lunch, according to court records. The client had a pending application for a liquor license. Campos returned Gorman’s call the same day, and on April 9, 2013, he wrote a recommendation Gorman’s client could use. The business got its license, and Gorman paid Campos about $2,000 for his recommendation, court records state.

Gorman spoke with Campos again in early January 2015, before Campos was sworn in as a state delegate, and asked him to intervene in an administrative hearing with the Prince George’s County Board of License Commissioners for the same client, who was having trouble getting its license renewed. Campos agreed to speak with an individual on the board, who is not named in the Gorman plea. Gorman eventually paid Campos $700 in $20 bills for that help, the court files show.

The Board of License Commissioners regulates the sale of alcohol in the county. There are more than 600 liquor stores, restaurants and other businesses licensed to sell alcohol in Prince George’s.

Gorman and his clients gave Campos $4,000 for voting in February and March of 2015 for a state bill that created special permits expanding Sunday liquor sales.

Gorman also offered to pay Campos $5,000 to meet with Montgomery County Council members on behalf of a Montgomery County client of Gorman’s and to testify before the Montgomery County Board of License Commissioners to help save the client’s liquor license in the wake of administrative lapses by the client, court documents show.

Campos testified under oath for Gorman’s client on May 7, 2015, and two weeks later Gorman handed Campos $5,000 in cash that Gorman pulled from inside a three-ring binder in his office, the records say.

The investigation made public in January has seen charges brought against seven others besides Gorman.

Federal authorities also allege former delegate Michael L. Vaughn (D-Prince George’s) received more than $10,000 in cash from liquor store owners in exchange for supporting the Sunday liquor sales bill. Vaughn has pleaded not guilty, and a trial date has not been set.

As part of an agreement worked out between the U.S. attorney’s office and Gorman’s attorney, Ty Kelly, Gorman agreed to forfeit any client fees he received in relation to the bribes. The government has not decided the amount it will seek.

A sentencing hearing for Gorman is scheduled for December.

Others named in the federal probe include liquor store owners Young Jung Paig and Shin Ja Lee, who pleaded guilty to funding bribes, as well as David Dae Sok Son, a former director of the Board of License Commissioners, and Anuj Sud, a former board commissioner.

Authorities have accused Son of facilitating bribes, while Sud is accused of exchanging votes for money. Both are awaiting court proceedings.

Felix Nelson Ayala, a Rockville accountant who authorities say gave Campos cash in exchange for public money for a nonprofit associated with Ayala, pleaded guilty to bribery in August but has not been sentenced.

Via Washington Post

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