Middlebury resident Paul Rogers, 40, pled guilty Wednesday to one count of devising a scheme to bribe a public official and one count of conspiring to make false statements to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and to impede the FEC’s enforcement of federal campaign finance laws.
The charges stem from a scheme to direct illegal campaign contributions into the 2012 campaign of former State Rep. Christopher Donovan 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.
Rogers owned 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 and others engaged in scheme to direct $27,500 in conduit campaign contributions. Rogers and his co-conspirators recruited multiple individuals to serve as conduit contributors to the campaign. These individuals wrote checks to the campaign in their own names, and Rogers and his co-conspirators reimbursed them with cash, thereby concealing the fact that RYO smoke shop owners were contributing to the campaign.
On approximately January 31, 2012, the Campaign Committee submitted a report to the FEC 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 four $2,500 contributions that were received and deposited by the Campaign Committee during that time period.
Rogers is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton on March 20, 2013, at which time he faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years for devising a scheme to bribe a public official and a maximum term of imprisonment of five years for conspiring to make false statements to the FEC and to impede the FEC’s enforcement of federal campaign finance laws.
Rogers is the third defendant to plead guilty to charges related to this scheme. On July 24, 2012, Harry Raymond “Ray” Soucy pleaded guilty to one count of devising a scheme to bribe a public official and one count of conspiring to make false statements to the FEC and to impede the FEC’s enforcement of federal campaign finance laws. On November 2, 2012, David Moffa pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to make false statements to the FEC and to impede the FEC’s enforcement of federal campaign finance laws. Soucy and Moffa also await sentencing.
Five other individuals have been charged as a result of this investigation. As to these defendants, U.S. Attorney David Fein stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher M. Mattei and Eric J. Glover.
The above is based off of a press release from U.S. Attorney David Fein's office.