HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted the former finance director of Democratic House Speaker Chris Donovan's congressional campaign on charges stemming from what authorities call a scheme to hide the source of more than $20,000 in campaign contributions.
Connecticut U.S. Attorney David Fein said the indictment details "an extensive conspiracy to corrupt the electoral process." He said his office and the FBI are continuing the investigation.
Robert Braddock Jr., who initially was charged in May in a criminal complaint, would face up to 12 years in prison and up to $750,000 in fines if convicted on charges of conspiring to conceal federal campaign contributions, accepting federal campaign contributions made by people in the names of others and causing false reports to be filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Braddock Jr., 33, of Meriden, is scheduled to be arraigned in U.S. District Court in New Haven on Thursday. He intends to plead not guilty, defense attorney Frank Riccio II said.
A message seeking comment from Donovan's campaign was not immediately returned Wednesday.
The indictment says the scheme began as early as November 2011, involving several owners of Connecticut roll-your-own tobacco shops who wanted to stop legislation subjecting them to new taxes and licensing fees that might be introduced in the upcoming 2012 legislative session.
The indictment shows that Braddock and an unindicted co-conspirator, or CC-1, who set up a meeting between Donovan and the shop owners, tried to shield Donovan from the scheme. Donovan, who the indictment says later chatted with the co-conspirator at his nominating convention, has denied any knowledge of the conspiracy alleged by authorities.
One of the shop owners told federal authorities that Braddock instructed him and another owner "not to talk about a bill" when they met with Donovan on Nov. 16 to discuss their concerns because "there is always people following this guy around, watching what he's doing."
On the morning of Nov. 16, before the meeting, CC-1 also advised two shop owners not to "bring up any bills" during their meeting with Donovan because of "the men in black running around ... all the time," the indictment says.
The Hartford Courant has identified CC-1 as Raymond Soucy, a former prison union official. Soucy has not responded to repeated attempts to contact him.
According to the indictment, one of the shop owners told another to take a check for $2,500, the maximum contribution amount, to the meeting with Donovan but to "give someone else the money and they can write the check." Later, during a December meeting, that shop owner explained it was necessary to use conduit contributions to prevent people from drawing a connection between their congressional campaign donations and defeat of the roll-your-own legislation that could be introduced, the indictment says.
The indictment also shows that CC-1 told one of the shop owners that the plan was to first contribute $10,000 to Donovan's congressional committee, followed by additional payments up to $30,000 if they were "happy." Federal authorities accuse Braddock and co-conspirators of being responsible for $27,500 in conduit contributions, or 11 checks of $2,500, from November 2011 through May 2012.
Undercover FBI agents eventually got involved, meeting with CC-1 and one of the owners on March 22. The agents posed as investors in roll-your-own shops who also opposed the new state taxes. They later agreed to supply cash to recruit and reimburse additional conduit contributors to Donovan's campaign.
The indictment says two months later, CC-1 appeared at Donovan's nominating convention, where he was greeted by a campaign employee, referred to as Campaign Aide 1, and led to a backstage area where Donovan approached him and "engaged him in a conversation."
The indictment says CC-1 was then led to a back room where he delivered a $10,000 payment in the form of three $2,500 conduit contributions to the campaign and one $2,500 contribution to the state Democratic Party. As CC-1 left the convention hall, the indictment says, he told Braddock he had just "thanked the man" and that "twenty thousand was well worth it. ... And another ten grand."
Braddock answered, "You're the man," it says.
Ultimately, the bill that would have imposed the taxes and fees on roll-your-own shops did not pass during the regular session of the General Assembly because it was not called up for a vote in the Senate. However, lawmakers later passed the legislation during a special session.
Associated Press writer John Christoffersen in New Haven contributed to this report.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Lawmakers in Connecticut and New York are calling on the Federal Railroad Administration to take immediate action to try and prevent another deadly train crash like the one that happened last weekend in New York City.
Members of the Machinists union who work at jet-engine maker Pratt & Whitney have approved a new three-year contract.
Manchester police are investigating what lead one man to allegedly kill three women and then take his own life.
The University of Connecticut has awarded the first two scholarships under a program launched to help those affected by last year's massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
A student accused of setting off a lockdown and massive police response at Central Connecticut State University by wearing a ninja-like costume on campus is set to face a judge for the first time.
Newtown police officers rescued two people from a house fire, early Sunday.
Enfield resident Harold Slater was just 20-years-old the day he witnessed the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Two men were arrested after breaking into a home then driving at officers during a pursuit in Waterbury on Saturday night.
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut's governor is calling for houses of worship to mark the first anniversary of the Newtown school shooting by ringing their bells 26 times — once for each of the victims killed inside Sandy Hook Elementary …
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The two youngest members of the U.S. Senate are co-sponsoring a bill aimed at lowering college costs that includes withholding federal funds from schools that don't meet affordability and quality standards.