Court affirms Bereano conviction Appeals panel orders stiffer sentence

August 29, 1998|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

A federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., affirmed the 1994 mail-fraud conviction of Annapolis lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano and ordered a stiffer sentence, U.S. Attorney Lynne A. Battaglia announced yesterday.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to U.S. District Judge William Nickerson in Baltimore for a new sentencing hearing.

Originally sentenced to five years' probation and a $20,000 fine, Bereano faces a 10- to 16-month prison term, Battaglia's office said.

Bereano, 53, once the highest-paid lobbyist in Annapolis, could appeal yesterday's decision by asking the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review it, said Stephen Schenning, first assistant U.S. attorney.

No date has been set for Bereano's sentencing hearing, Schenning said.

Bereano, who has been allowed to practice law during the appeals process, could not be reached for comment last night.

A Bereano appeal will prolong a case that has taken years to move through the federal court system.

When one of the appeals court judges died last year, the case had to be reargued, Schenning said.

The case dates to Bereano's 1994 jury conviction on seven counts of mail fraud in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

He was convicted after prosecutors showed that he had arranged for several false or "dummy" contributors to make payments to state legislature campaigns to circumvent campaign finance laws and used the mail to carry out the scheme.

He instructed family members and employees to make campaign contributions and to pay for them, defrauded lobbying clients by sending them bills for fictitious services aimed at hiding the contributions.

The bills, sent out between May 1990 and June 1991, totaled more than $16,000, prosecutors said.

Nickerson, who sentenced Bereano in 1995, was directed by the three-judge panel to reimpose a sentence under federal guidelines calling for prison time.

Nickerson had departed from the guidelines in handing down the original sentence, saying that clients of Bereano's got what they wanted, a closer relationship with state lawmakers.

Pub Date: 8/29/98

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