U.S. subpoenas more on Bereano

February 03, 1994|By John W. Frece and C. Fraser Smith | John W. Frece and C. Fraser Smith,Sun Staff Writers

A federal grand jury has subpoenaed the records of at least one current and one former client of Annapolis lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano, broadening an investigation into his lobbying practices and political fund-raising activities.

The probe involving Mr. Bereano began in December 1992 as an investigation into allegations of irregularities involving the state's purchase of new lottery computers.

In that transaction, Mr. Bereano -- widely regarded as the No. 1 lobbyist in the state -- represented the winning bidder, the GTECH Corp. of Greenwich, Conn.

The subpoenas, issued last month by the U.S. District Court in Baltimore, seek all records related to political contributions made by or on behalf of Bereano clients "at the request or suggestion" of Mr. Bereano, "including but not limited to records of contributions, records of political action committees, canceled checks, ledgers, bank statements or other financial records and documents memorializing discussions or instructions concerning contributions."

They also seek all correspondence to or from Mr. Bereano as well as all internal memorandums and "contracts, retainers, agreements, letters, reports, invoices, bills, statements, cover letters, receipts and canceled checks."

One subpoena was served on the Maryland/District of Columbia/Delaware Broadcasters Association Inc., which Mr. Bereano formerly represented, and the other on the Maryland Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons, a longtime client of the lobbyist.

Mr. Bereano represents 38 clients in Annapolis; in previous years, he has represented more than 50. For years, he has been the highest-paid lobbyist in Annapolis, sometimes reporting more than $1 million in fees a year.

Several of his current clients declined to comment when asked yesterday if they had been served with subpoenas. Other current or former clients said they knew nothing of the matter.

Mr. Bereano, who yesterday was making his usual round of appearances before legislative committees, said, "I just don't have any comment on this matter at all."

In recent months, Mr. Bereano has told friends and associates he is fearful of being indicted, but has declined to comment publicly.

Because the work of a federal grand jury is secret, it could not be determined how many subpoenas have been issued, nor if or when the grand jury might ever return any indictments. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen S. Zimmermann, whose name appeared on the subpoena, declined to comment.

The investigation, slightly more than a year old, was begun by former U.S. Attorney Richard E. Bennett, who is now a Republican candidate for state attorney general.

Asked if GTECH had received a subpoena, Craig Watson, a spokesman, said, "I can't say specifically about that."

Bob Massey, executive director of the Maryland Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons, said he was "crashing and burning" in an effort to respond to his subpoena's deadline to turn over the requested documents by today.

Mr. Massey described the task as time-consuming and expensive. "It is a time of recovery [of documents] and a time of duplicating," he said. But he added, "Whatever the allegation is, it is just that. And this is just a matter of complying with that [subpoena]."

Chip Weinman, president of the Broadcasters' Association, confirmed receipt of the subpoena and said it would not be much trouble to comply because his association seldom makes political contributions.

Suzy Katt, vice president for government relations of another of Mr. Bereano's clients, the Golden Rule Insurance Co. of Indianapolis, said she knew nothing about the subpoenas, but expressed support for Mr. Bereano.

"When you're a lobbyist, they try to dig up any kind of dirt on you. I'm not too terribly alarmed about it," she said, noting that she had been a deputy prosecutor for the state of Indiana before joining the company.

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