Ellicott City businessman draws jail term for bribe

February 18, 1993|By Deborah Overton | Deborah Overton,Staff Writer

An article in yesterday's editions incorrectly reported that William Zei is the owner of Zenith Building Services Inc. He is the former owner of the company, which operates under new ownership.

4( The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.

A federal judge sentenced an Ellicott City businessman yesterday to nine months in prison for bribing a union official to avoid giving pay raises and benefits to employees of his janitorial firm.

William A. Zei, 47, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Baltimore by Chief Judge Walter E. Black Jr., who also ordered him to pay a $10,000 fine and serve two years' probation for his conviction on a federal bribery charge.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Judge Black said the offense deserved "serious treatment by this court. This kind of activity will not be tolerated."

Zei, owner of the Zenith Building Services Inc. in Ellicott City and Baltimore, paid a $6,500 bribe to a trustee of the Laborer's International Union of North America.

The union trustee, Edward Glenn Jr., hid the fact that Zei was not giving raises and health and pension benefits to 100 janitorial employees. Glenn has pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter M. Semel asked the judge to impose a prison sentence, saying it would send a "message to the community" that business owners will be punished for bribing union officials.

"These people [employees] lost by his activities," said Mr. Semel, who added that more than $86,000 was kept from janitorial employees who worked for Zenith at the Social Security Metro West complex in downtown Baltimore.

Zei has since paid $112,296 in fines for violations at the Metro West complex and at other job sites that were investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor and the FBI.

Defense attorney Michael Schatzow blamed his client's behavior a "depressive disorder related to his business," which he said was diagnosed in May 1991. He asked the judge to impose a one month prison term for Zei followed by probation.

But neither the attorney's explanations nor letters from family, friends and former Zenith employees were enough to persuade Judge Black to impose the light sentence Zei's attorney was seeking.

"You have been meaningful in your life and your career," said Judge Black. "We have to weigh that against what you have done."

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