Executive guilty in fraud case

Contractor says he bribed state senator for business

November 29, 2006|By Matthew Dolan | Matthew Dolan,Sun reporter

The former head of a Baltimore construction company said in federal court yesterday that he bribed former state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell in a multimillion- dollar scheme that rigged contracts, bilked public institutions and violated laws meant to protect and promote businesses owned by minorities and women.

As part of his guilty plea to racketeering conspiracy and mail fraud, W. David Stoffregen, the former president of Poole and Kent, also promised to cooperate against Bromwell, a Baltimore County Democrat who once led one of the legislature's most influential committees.

Federal prosecutors have accused Bromwell of steering millions of dollars in building contracts to Poole and Kent at Stoffregen's request.

In return, federal prosecutors allege in an indictment last year, Bromwell's wife, Mary Pat Bromwell, was paid a salary for a fake job at a woman-owned subcontractor controlled by Stoffregen. Stoffregen was fired in March 2005 when he refused to cooperate with the federal criminal investigation, court papers say.

Yesterday's plea from the 53-year-old Stoffregen provided the most complete look inside what is now considered to be one of the largest public corruption investigations in recent Maryland history.

The former president of a leading plumbing and steamfitting company that worked on the Ravens football stadium, a juvenile prison and a major airport terminal expansion acknowledged in court papers that he broke the law in a variety of ways to win contracts and line his own pockets.

Yesterday's plea also appears to strengthen the hand of prosecutors for the coming trial of the Bromwells. In addition to Stoffregen, prosecutors have assembled five potential witnesses who pleaded guilty earlier in cases related to the investigation, including Stoffregen's former executive assistant and his former vice president.

The Bromwells have pleaded not guilty to racketeering and related charges and are scheduled for trial early next year.

The former senator continues to serve as president and chief executive officer of Maryland Injured Workers' Insurance Fund, a quasi-public agency whose board is appointed by the governor and manages $1.3 billion in assets and reserves. He left the state Senate for the insurance fund job after serving as its finance committee chairman.

The couple's lawyers said yesterday that Stoffregen's plea changes nothing.

"We plan on going to trial and it doesn't change anything," the former senator's attorney, Robert Schulman, said last night. "We'll be in court Feb. 5."

Schulman added that there have been no discussions with federal prosecutors for the Bromwells to change their pleas.

Stoffregen, who mingled often with politicians and other powerbrokers in Maryland, was once a well-known leader in the building trade and a substantial contributor to political campaigns.

In court papers, his own company recently accused Stoffregen of looting the corporation of $1 million in a separate kickback scheme with vendors. Stoffregen's plea yesterday incorporates two new counts from that theft at Poole and Kent - mail fraud and filing a false tax return - as well as the three charges from the original indictment unsealed in October 2005.

Stoffregen also agreed to forfeit more than $5.6 million, which will be drawn in part from assets that include his Baltimore County home, a luxury car and motorcycle, and several bank accounts.

If U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz adheres to sentencing guidelines, Stoffregen faces a minimum of 6 1/2 years and a maximum of 17 1/2 years in prison, an unusually lengthy time behind bars for white-collar crime.

"David Stoffregen admitted his wrongdoing today. This day begins his effort to take responsibility for the harm to people he loves and the company where he worked most of his adult life," his attorney, Jeffrey E. Risberg, said after the hearing.

Stoffregen declined to comment.

According to his admission in court papers, the former Poole and Kent president used a variety of means to reward a public servant who acted as his behind-the-scenes deal maker.

In 1999, Stoffregen awarded a $1.3 million subcontract for security work at the Juvenile Justice Center in Baltimore to Network Technologies Group, court papers say. Stoffregen admitted in court documents that he awarded the subcontract to NTG only because Bromwell had a sales position with the technology company.

In 2000 and 2001, Stoffregen said that he arranged for Poole and Kent to do more than $85,000 worth of work at Bromwell's new house in Baltimore County with the expectation that the senator would not be billed for most of the work, according to court papers.

Later, when the federal agents began to investigate, Stoffregen admitted he tried to cover his tracks by directing that a second, false invoice be prepared.

Stoffregen considered Bromwell to be so good for business that he said in court papers he paid the senator to remain in elected office.

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