|TRENTON – Acting Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that former Birdsall Services Group executive William Birdsall was sentenced to jail today for participating in a criminal scheme in which more than $1 million in corporate political contributions were illegally made through firm employees to evade New Jersey’s pay-to-play law. He is the third Birdsall executive to be sentenced to jail or prison this year. Birdsall Services Group (BSG) was an engineering firm based in Monmouth County that now is out of business.
William Birdsall, 67, of Manchester, N.J., formerly senior vice president and a large shareholder of BSG, was sentenced to 270 days in the county jail as a condition of a two-year term of probation by Superior Court Judge James Den Uyl in Ocean County. He pleaded guilty on May 2 to third-degree misconduct by a corporate official. He paid $129,115 to the state, representing forfeiture of the political contributions he made that were reimbursed by BSG. He also paid a $75,000 public corruption profiteering penalty. He is debarred for 10 years from personally bidding on public contracts in New Jersey or holding an interest of 5 percent or more in any company that bids for such contracts.
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 hearing today.
The charge was contained in a March 26, 2013 indictment, which also charged BSG and six other executives and shareholders. 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.
On April 22, William Birdsall’s brother, Howard Birdsall, 73, of Brielle, N.J., formerly the CEO and largest shareholder of BSG, was sentenced to four years in prison by Judge Den Uyl after pleading guilty to second-degree misconduct by a corporate official. He paid $49,808 to the state, representing forfeiture of the illegal political contributions he made that were reimbursed by BSG. On June 10, Thomas Rospos, 64, of Belmar, N.J., formerly the executive vice president of BSG and its second largest shareholder, was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to third-degree tampering with public records or information. He paid $150,000 to the state in forfeiture of the illegal political contributions he made. He is debarred for 10 years from public contracts in New Jersey.
“By putting three executives of this firm behind bars, we’ve demonstrated that we won’t tolerate corrupt schemes to evade New Jersey’s pay-to-play law,” said Acting Attorney General Porrino. “These defendants secured millions of dollars in public contracts for which they should have been disqualified, stacking the deck in their favor in exactly the way the law was intended to prevent.”
“Through our ongoing prosecutions, we’re holding the leaders of this company accountable for this criminal scheme,” 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 a company that makes secret and illegal political contributions.”
Another indicted BSG executive pleaded guilty this year and is awaiting sentencing. Scott MacFadden, 62, 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.
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.
A former employee of the marketing department of BSG, Philip Angarone, 44, of Hamilton (Mercer County), N.J., the former marketing director, pleaded guilty for his role in the scheme before the indictment was returned 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 those 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.