Bribery schemer gets 6 1/2 years

Executive did favors for Bromwell, got help with contracts worth millions

November 27, 2007|By Matthew Dolan | Matthew Dolan,Sun reporter

The construction company executive who engineered a years-long scheme to bribe former state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell Sr. received a prison term of 6 1/2 years yesterday in federal court, slightly less than the seven-year sentence imposed on the Baltimore County Democrat earlier this month.

Calling the crimes "extremely serious," U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz also ordered W. David Stoffregen to forfeit more than $5.6 million in cash, vehicles and property to represent the amount of money lost due to rigged contracts and outright theft from his pipe and steamfitting company.

As his tearful family and friends watched in the Baltimore courtroom, the 54-year-old Towson man apologized for his conduct in halting speech, saying "I would like for the chance to rebuild my life again. ... I was not always a bad guy."

During the hearing, Stoffregen's attorney argued that his client had worked his way up from a plumber's apprentice to become chief executive officer of the Baltimore-based mechanical contracting firm Poole and Kent. In the end, Stoffregen was undone by hubris and greed, according to his attorney Jeffrey E. Risberg.

Still, the lawyer said, Stoffregen deserved a break, with a sentence of three years in prison because he was key to securing Bromwell's conviction.

Prosecutors countered that Stoffregen should receive a heftier sentence than Bromwell because he not only bribed the former public official but looted Poole and Kent of more than $1 million and conned some of his employees into helping him.

Those employees with "misplaced loyalties," according to prosecutors, paid a high price with felony convictions of their own. The government asked for a prison term of nine to more than 11 years for Stoffregen.

"His crimes were worse than Senator Bromwell's," assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Leotta argued yesterday in court.

Motz's sentencing decision effectively rejected that view.

The judge awarded Stoffregen nearly double the credit prosecutors wanted for his "substantial assistance" in the investigation into Bromwell's illegal activities, calling his cooperation with law enforcement "important."

That determination substantially reduced Stoffregen's potential sentence under recommended federal guidelines to between 6 1/2 and almost nine years in prison.

Motz also credited Stoffregen for his acceptance of responsibility and recent community service, adding that Stoffregen, who bribed a politician, was no more criminally responsible than Bromwell - "the person who was bought."

Last year, Stoffregen pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud and filing a false tax return, admitting he bribed Bromwell with nearly $200,000 in discounted work at Bromwell's Parkville home and a no-show-job salary for the ex-senator's wife in return for Bromwell's assistance in public contract negotiations.

Bromwell and his wife, Mary Patricia, later pleaded guilty after Stoffregen began cooperating with federal officials. The former state senator, who left his seat in 2002 after 23 years in the General Assembly for a leadership post at the state's largest insurance fund for injured workers, received a seven-year prison sentence.

Mary Patricia Bromwell was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison.

In a separate federal sentencing earlier yesterday, a downtown Baltimore property manager who wore a wire while meeting with Bromwell to capture details about how the two rigged bids, steered contracts and collected kickbacks for overpriced construction work received a sentence of six months of home detention.

The manager, James G. Eick, who worked for Boston Properties at the Candler Building, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud. Eick had been expected to be a witness against Bromwell had the case gone to trial on corruption charges. The kickbacks were separate and apart from the arrangements Bromwell made with Stoffregen, court papers show.

Eick admitted that Bromwell, a longtime friend, worked with him to defraud tenants at the Candler Building in downtown Baltimore. He now must pay restitution of more than $100,000 to Boston Properties and several individual tenants who were defrauded, Motz ordered yesterday.

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

According to court papers, Eick met Paul Matthews, a general contractor-turned-FBI informant, in August 1999. Matthews' 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.

Court papers said 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.

Today, Motz is scheduled to sentence David M. Jackman, 51, who pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI. Jackman, of Perry Hall, admitted he lied when he said that he had always intended to bill Bromwell for work Poole and Kent performed at his Baltimore County home.

matthew.dolan@baltsun.com

For previous stories on the public corruption case, go to baltimoresun.com/bromwell.

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