Balto. Co. councilman's ex-aide pleads guilty to stealing funds

Olszewski's treasurer gets suspended sentence

December 18, 2003|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Richard Irish, former campaign treasurer and confidant of Baltimore County Councilman John Olszewski Sr., avoided a lengthy prison sentence yesterday by pleading guilty to stealing more than $62,000 in campaign funds and falsifying campaign reports.

Under a plea agreement approved by Baltimore County Circuit Judge Patrick Cavanaugh, a 10-year sentence and $25,000 in fines were suspended after Irish agreed to pay back the money he stole and to attend meetings at Gamblers Anonymous.

Irish was placed on five years' probation. In addition, $500 a month will be garnisheed from his wages until he has paid nearly $53,000 in restitution. Irish has repaid some of the money he stole, according to court documents.

"It was a fair sentence because Mr. Irish had no previous criminal record and it was clear that he stole the money to support his gambling habit," said Thomas M. McDonough, senior assistant state prosecutor.

Irish was charged with felony theft and perjury, the latter charge stemming from falsifying state election campaign reports. Additional charges were dropped as part of the plea arrangement.

Irish, 42, works for McCormick and Co. and served on the county's Board of Appeals, which handles zoning disputes and land development cases. He resigned in April.

Irish was once Olszewski's next-door neighbor and began serving as the councilman's campaign chairman in 1997, when he was running for his first term in a district that includes Dundalk and parts of Essex.

When the allegations surfaced in September, Irish confirmed that he had a longtime gambling addiction and had sought treatment at Gamblers Anonymous.

McDonough, whose office investigates and prosecutes charges of political corruption in Maryland, said Irish reported campaign contribution checks as being voided and used to pay others for campaign expenses, when he had cashed them for personal use.

The state also alleged that Irish intentionally omitted from campaign finance reports 20 checks totaling $12,150.

State officials said Olszewski was not aware of Irish's criminal acts until the investigation began.

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