Plea widens fraud case

Property manager accuses Bromwell of rigging project bids


Federal prosecutors opened a new front against Thomas L. Bromwell yesterday when a downtown property manager accused the former state senator of helping to rig bids, steer contracts and collect kickbacks for overpriced construction work.

Evidence revealed yesterday includes secretly recorded conversations involving Bromwell in which prosecutors say payoffs were discussed.

James G. Eick, who worked for Boston Properties at the Candler Building, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to one count of mail fraud. His lawyer said Eick expects to be a witness against the former state senator from Baltimore County at his trial on corruption charges.

"He was just a small tentacle in a much larger octopus of a case against Bromwell," said Eick's attorney, Gerald C. Ruter.

The plea appears to give authorities more ammunition in their prosecution of Bromwell, who was indicted last month on criminal racketeering charges. Prosecutors accuse Bromwell of using his political and business influence to help a Baltimore construction company reap millions of dollars in contracts.

Three others have pleaded guilty in the widening scandal and agreed to cooperate against Bromwell, once one of the most powerful Democratic lawmakers in Annapolis.

Robert B. Schulman, one of Bromwell's attorneys, said he could not comment because he was not aware of Eick's plea.

Schulman and other attorneys in the case had been in U.S. District Court minutes before Eick's hearing, arguing that assets seized by the government should be returned to Bromwell.

Judge J. Frederick Motz ruled that prosecutors had a right to take or freeze Bromwell's assets, including bank funds and real estate, before trial.

The indictment against Bromwell accuses him of steering millions of dollars in building contracts to the Poole and Kent construction company. In return, prosecutors allege, his wife, Mary Pat Bromwell, was paid a salary for a fake job at a company controlled by W. David Stoffregen, then president of Poole and Kent.

Stoffregen also arranged for $85,000 worth of discounted work to be done at the Bromwell home, according to the indictment. Together the Bromwells are charged with racketeering, mail fraud and extortion. Stoffregen faces similar charges.

Prosecutors allege that Bromwell was involved with Eick, a longtime friend, to defraud tenants at the Candler Building in downtown Baltimore.

Prosecutors described Eick, 48, of Baltimore County, as the man who controlled construction work inside the Candler Building at 111 Market Place.

In the late 1990s and early 2000, the Candler Building was an attractive site for telecommunications companies because of its proximity to fiber-optic lines. Boston Properties owned the 550,000-square-foot historic building but sold it in 2003 for $65 million.

According to court papers, Eick met Paul Matthews, a general contractor, in August 1999. Mathews' company, Arch/Con Development, had been hired by Metromedia Inc. - one of the tenants at the Candler Building.

Eick helped Matthews during the construction project, court papers said. In return, Matthews gave Eick $1,000 in December 1999 as a Christmas gift and to thank him for other referrals, prosecutors allege.

As Metromedia expanded, Eick helped Matthews again. In return, Eick demanded a kickback, according to court papers. Matthews agreed and paid Eick about $2,000 in early 2000, prosecutors allege.

Court papers allege that Eick referred Bromwell to Matthews as a subcontractor. Bromwell owned Dallas Inc., a small construction company. Bromwell and Eick had known each other for years, their attorneys said.

After Bromwell got the subcontract, he gave Eick $1,500 as a thank you, prosecutors contend.

Prosecutors said that one of the first tainted contracts involved Eick's office space in the Candler Building.

In the summer of 2000, Eick needed to move his office to another floor. Eick told Matthews to oversee the work and directed him to submit a proposal to his bosses at Boston Properties, prosecutors allege.

Eick, Matthews and Bromwell - who was supposed to do carpentry work on the job - agreed that the real cost for the work would be $15,854, court papers say. But the three also decided that Matthews would charge Boston Properties $30,500 for the job, prosecutors allege. Prosecutors say that each man took a share of the extra profits - $3,900.

In the fall of 2000, Eick steered construction work for two tenants to Matthews so that he could receive kickback payments from Matthews, according to court papers.

Since the summer of that year, the FBI had been using Matthews as an informant. He was wearing a wire in May 2001 to record a conversation that included Eick and Bromwell talking about kickbacks, court papers show. Matthews has not been charged with a crime.

Arbros Communications, another Candler tenant, hired Matthews in 2001 to build a telecommunications center estimated to cost $1.5 million.

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