TRENTON – Acting Attorney General Robert Lougy announced that the former executive vice president of Birdsall Services Group (BSG) was sentenced to state prison today for his role in a criminal scheme in which more than $1 million in corporate political contributions were illegally made through employees of the firm to evade New Jersey’s pay-to-play law. He is the second top Birdsall executive to be sentenced to prison in the past two months.
Thomas Rospos, 64, of Belmar, N.J., formerly the executive vice president of BSG and its second largest shareholder, was sentenced today to three years in state prison by Superior Court Judge James Den Uyl in Ocean County. Rospos pleaded guilty on Feb. 25, on the eve of trial, to a charge of third-degree tampering with public records or information. Rospos paid $150,000 to the state, representing forfeiture of the political contributions that he made on behalf BSG that were reimbursed by the firm. He is debarred for 10 years from personally bidding on any public contracts in New Jersey or holding an interest of 5 percent or greater in any company that bids for such contracts.
On April 22, Howard Birdsall, 73, former CEO and largest shareholder of BSG, was sentenced to four years in state prison by Judge Den Uyl after pleading guilty to second-degree misconduct by a corporate official. He paid $49,808 to the state in forfeiture of political contributions he made that were reimbursed by BSG. His brother, William Birdsall, 67, former senior vice president of BSG, pleaded guilty on May 2 to third-degree misconduct by a corporate official. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 11 and faces a recommended sentence of up to 270 days in the county jail as a condition of a term of probation. He paid $129,115 to the state for his reimbursed political contributions, as well as a $75,000 public corruption penalty. He is debarred for 10 years from public contracts in New Jersey.
Deputy Attorney General Anthony A. Picione, Chief of the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, and Deputy Attorney General Mallory Shanahan are prosecuting the case and handled the sentencing today.
“Rospos and his co-defendants engaged an elaborate criminal scheme to hide their firm’s political contributions so that they could secure millions of dollars in public contracts for which they should have been disqualified,” said Acting Attorney General Lougy. “With these prosecutions, we have struck an important blow for integrity in public contracting in New Jersey.”
“By putting top executives of this firm in prison, we’ve sent a message that criminal conduct aimed at skirting New Jersey’s pay-to-play law will be aggressively prosecuted,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Our taxpayers have a right to expect that public contracts will be awarded in a transparent manner and not steered to the biggest political contributors.”
The charges were contained in a March 26, 2013 indictment, which charged BSG and a total of seven executives and shareholders of the firm. The indictment stemmed from an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, which found that the defendants allegedly conspired to avoid the restrictions of New Jersey’s Pay-to-Play Act by disguising illegal corporate political contributions as personal contributions of employees.
BSG pleaded guilty on June 13, 2013 to charges of first-degree money laundering and second-degree making false representations for government contracts. As a result of its plea, BSG paid two major criminal penalties: a $500,000 public corruption profiteering penalty and a $500,000 anti-money laundering profiteering penalty. In each instance, the penalty was the maximum amount authorized by law. BSG also paid the state $2.6 million to settle a civil forfeiture action filed by the Attorney General’s Office in connection with the criminal case.
Another indicted BSG executive pleaded guilty this year and is awaiting sentencing. Scott MacFadden, 61, of Brick, N.J., former chief administrative officer of BSG, pleaded guilty on Jan. 6 to third-degree misconduct by a corporate official and faces a recommended sentence of up to 364 days in jail as a condition of a term of probation. He must forfeit $30,000 in reimbursed political contributions he made.
A former employee of the marketing department of BSG, Philip Angarone, 44, of Hamilton (Mercer County), N.J., the former marketing director, pleaded guilty pre-indictment for his role in the scheme and also is awaiting sentencing.
The remaining defendants who are charged in the indictment face first-degree counts of conspiracy and money laundering, as well as other charges. The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Under the alleged scheme, instead of Birdsall Services Group making corporate political contributions to campaigns and political organizations that would disqualify it from public contracts awarded by certain government agencies, shareholders and employees of the firm made personal political contributions of $300 or less, which are deemed unreportable. Multiple personal checks were bundled together at Birdsall Services Group and sent to the appropriate campaign or political organization. The shareholders and employees were then illegally reimbursed by Birdsall Services Group, directly or indirectly, through added bonus payments, and the firm falsely omitted the illegally reimbursed contributions in documents filed with the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) and with government agencies that awarded the firm engineering services contracts. The scheme continued for more than six years and involved more than $1 million in contributions.