2 clients back Bereano in testimony

November 22, 1994|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,Sun Staff Writer

Two of the alleged fraud victims of Bruce C. Bereano told a jury yesterday that they have no reason to believe he cheated them. In fact, both said they would hire Annapolis' top lobbyist again.

Mr. Bereano is on trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on charges that he overbilled his lobbying clients through a scheme involving illegal campaign contributions.

But so far, the government has not called anyone or any company that claims to be a victim.

Prosecutors say Mr. Bereano wrongly billed Medical Mutual Liability Insurance Society of Maryland $150 for an illegal campaign contribution in 1990, but an insurance company official said he has no knowledge of being overcharged.

After being told of the alleged overbilling, Medical Mutual did not audit its bills from Mr. Bereano, Vice President Stephen P. Carney said. "At this time, the amount of money involved and the time that has passed, it's just not significant to our operations," Mr. Carney testified.

Medical Mutual, which provides malpractice insurance to doctors, plans to hire Mr. Bereano to lobby the Maryland General Assembly next year, he said.

Prosecutors contend that Mr. Bereano had his employees and relatives make more than $16,000 in campaign contributions for him. He allegedly reimbursed the donors and charged his clients for the contributions, which he disguised as the costs of entertaining legislators.

The government has records suggesting $600 in improper bills to Medical Mutual, Phillips Publishing Inc., Dental Benefit Providers and the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association. The bills allegedly covered contributions to two candidates in 1990.

An official with Phillips Publishing testified yesterday that the company did not authorize Mr. Bereano to use his employees to make political contributions on its behalf. Stephen Peck, a Phillips vice president, said the publishing company hired the lobbyist to push a change in tax law and provide advice on election law.

Mr. Bereano's lawyers used the occasion to elicit praise for the lobbyist. M. Albert Figinski asked Mr. Peck if Mr. Bereano had a "passion" for his work. "I believe Bruce has a high passion for his work and for his clients," Mr. Peck answered.

"Do you feel Bruce Bereano cheated you out of any money?" the lawyer asked.

"No," Mr. Peck said.

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