Three Marylanders pay penalties in 1994 campaign laundering scheme


Three Maryland residents have paid a total of $15,500 in civil penalties for their roles in laundering campaign contributions in a 1994 scheme orchestrated by one-time prominent political fund-raiser Lalit H. Gadhia, according to federal election officials.

The Federal Election Commission also sent "admonishment" letters to about 40 others who were involved in making or soliciting the illegal contributions, closing the agency's investigation of the matter, a spokeswoman said.

In May 1996, Gadhia pleaded guilty to election fraud for laundering at least $46,000 in campaign contributions, money that was given to Gadhia in 1994 by an official at the embassy of India.

Under the scheme, which was first disclosed in The Sun, Gadhia asked dozens of Marylanders to make political contributions and then reimbursed them, funneling thousands of dollars to candidates, a violation of federal law.

Gadhia, who had served as the campaign treasurer for the 1994 election effort of Gov. Parris N. Glendening, was sentenced to three months in prison and six months in a halfway house.

Three men acknowledged in the FEC investigation that they had helped Gadhia and agreed to pay penalties. They are Baltimore restaurant owner Satish Bahl, who paid $3,250; Vinay Wahi, a partner of Bahl's, who paid $8,750; and Dr. S. V. Ramamurthy of Catonsville, who paid $3,500.

The FEC found that 18 candidates, including four from Maryland, had unknowingly accepted illegal contributions. The campaigns of the four Maryland officials -- U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin and former Rep. Kweisi Mfume -- have turned illegal contributions totaling $13,500 over to the U.S. Treasury.

Gadhia's scheme was designed to influence federal lawmakers involved in foreign-policy decisions affecting India, his native country.

Pub Date: 7/14/98

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