Supreme Court declines review of Bereano's fraud conviction

May 25, 1999|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

The seven-year battle between federal prosecutors and State House lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano came to an end yesterday when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review his mail-fraud conviction, setting the stage for a new fight over the lobbyist's license to practice law in Maryland.

Without comment, the court refused to hear Bereano's appeal of his 1994 conviction for a campaign-contribution fraud scheme. The FBI began investigating Bereano in 1992.

Bereano, once Annapolis' highest paid lobbyist, began serving a five-month sentence in an East Baltimore halfway house in February. He also was fined $30,000.

Bereano spends nights and weekends at the federal halfway house, but is allowed to go to Annapolis to work during the day.

"I'm profoundly disappointed," Bereano said yesterday. "It's the end of the legal road. As a lawyer, I fully understand that."

While the conviction will not stop Bereano from continuing to lobby state lawmakers in Annapolis, he faces the possible loss of his Maryland license to practice law.

The District of Columbia disbarred Bereano last October -- an action that is required in the District for any lawyer convicted of a crime of "moral turpitude."

In response to the District's action, the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission filed a complaint against Bereano with the state Court of Appeals in March. In Maryland, the court can impose a range of disciplinary actions on an attorney with a serious criminal conviction, including disbarment or a suspension.

With the Supreme Court appeal denied, the disciplinary case will go to a Circuit Court judge, who will hold a hearing on Bereano's status as a lawyer and make findings of facts and conclusions of law.

After that, the case will go back to the Court of Appeals for a ruling on sanctions.

"That will be the next issue that I'll be giving attention to," Bereano said of his possible disbarment. "In the meantime, I'm still licensed to practice law and I'll continue. I do intend to contest the matter."

A federal jury convicted Bereano in 1994 of seven counts of mail fraud, finding that he overbilled clients so he could make campaign contributions. The lobbyist had instructed family members and employees of his law firm to make the contributions, then passed the costs on to clients, prosecutors said.

The clients received phony bills from Bereano that described the costs as having gone toward entertaining legislators.

Pub Date: 5/25/99

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