Criminal Justice News

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Second Campaign Official Pleads Guilty to Charges Involving 2010 District of Columbia Mayoral Race

Defendant Admits Making False Statements to the FBI in Criminal Investigation

WASHINGTON—Howard L. Brooks, a member of the finance and treasury teams of a 2010 mayoral candidate in the District of Columbia, pled guilty today to making a false statement to the FBI about his activities during the campaign, announced U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen, Jr. and James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

Brooks, 64, of Silver Spring, Maryland, pled guilty before the Honorable Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. No sentencing date was set. The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison as well as a potential fine. Under federal sentencing guidelines, the parties have agreed that the applicable range would be a maximum of six months of incarceration and a fine of up to $5,000.

The plea comes two days after another campaign official, Thomas W. Gore, 56, pled guilty to a felony count of obstruction of justice and three misdemeanor charges of making of a campaign contribution in the name of another. Brooks and Gore remain free pending sentencing.

The guilty pleas involve illegal conduct by Brooks and Gore during and after the 2010 mayoral campaign. Brooks and Gore worked for one of the candidates challenging incumbent Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. In court documents, that candidate is identified as “Candidate A.” Gore was the assistant treasurer of the campaign and was a member of its treasury team.

According to the government’s evidence, Brooks and Gore helped carry out a plan to divert funds from their candidate’s campaign to that of another challenger to Mr. Fenty, identified as “Candidate B.” The express purpose of these payments was to keep Candidate B running in the mayoral race. During the race, Candidate B verbally attacked Mr. Fenty during candidate debates and other forums.

“Today’s guilty plea further reveals the underhanded dealings that tainted the integrity of the 2010 mayoral campaign,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “Mr. Brooks acknowledged using fraudulent money orders to not only secretly divert funds to an opposing candidate but also in order to make unlawful contributions to his own candidate’s campaign that he in fact did not pay for with his own funds. He then made false statements about his misconduct to the FBI during the government’s subsequent investigation. Although Mr. Brooks’s conduct was egregious, he deserves some credit for owning up to his mistakes and eventually telling the truth. We urge others to do the same as we continue our efforts to get to the bottom of what happened during the 2010 election.”

“Today, Mr. Brooks admitted that he lied to the government about his actions,” said Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin. “Such false information steers an investigation off course and drains time, money, and resources that could be better utilized in the interests of our citizens.”

According to a statement of offense signed by Brooks as well as the government, beginning in or around late June 2010, Brooks met with Gore and another member of the campaign for Candidate A. Brooks was instructed to make payments to Candidate B. Gore provided blank money orders on which Brooks and other campaign workers filled in the names and addresses of real persons who had not contributed these funds as those making the payments.

The completed money orders were returned to Gore, who put some of them in an envelope and gave them to Brooks to deliver to Candidate B.

The statement of offense provides details about 10 money orders, signed and blank, that Brooks delivered to Candidate B between July 2, 2010 and August 4, 2010. The money orders had a total value of $2,810.

In addition, the statement of offense provides details about eight fraudulent money orders that were deposited and used by the campaign of Candidate A. Brooks obtained these money orders, totaling $4,000, from Gore. Brooks signed his own name on four of the money orders and a friend’s name on the other four money orders, even though neither Brooks nor his friend had contributed any funds toward their purchase. The campaign of Candidate A later reported these contributions to the District of Columbia Office of Campaign Finance as if they were legitimate campaign contributions from Brooks and his friend.

The false statement charge stems from Brooks’s actions after allegations involving the mayoral election came to light.

On March 6, 2011, allegations by Candidate B about the campaign of Candidate A appeared in The Washington Post. In these reports, Candidate B alleged that, during the 2010 campaign, he had been promised a job in a future Candidate A administration. In addition, Candidate B said that he received payments from Brooks and another member of the campaign for Candidate A in return for staying in the mayoral race and continuing to attack Mr. Fenty.

On March 9, 2011, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia issued a public statement that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI were assessing the allegations made by Candidate B.

Brooks met with the FBI and others on April 6, 2011 in a voluntary interview at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Among other things, Brooks stated that he never gave Candidate B or the campaign of Candidate B any cash, money orders, or other type of payments.

These false statements were material, as they were capable of influencing the course of the FBI’s investigation of alleged payments to the campaign of Candidate B from the campaign of Candidate A.

In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Machen and Assistant Director McJunkin commended the work of those who investigated the case for the FBI.

They also expressed appreciation to Criminal Investigators Matthew Kutz, Mark Crawford, and Melissa Matthews; Paralegal Specialists Tasha Harris, Shanna Hays, Sylvester Brown, and Diane Hayes, and former Legal Assistant Jared Forney, all of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Finally, they acknowledged the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ellen Chubin Epstein and Mary Chris Dobbie, who investigated and prosecuted this matter.

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