David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that a federal grand jury sitting in New Haven today returned a three-count indictment that charges Robert Braddock, Jr., 33, of Meriden, with participating in a conspiracy to conceal the source of contributions to the campaign of a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives on which he worked.
The indictment alleges that Braddock, while employed as the Finance Director for the campaign of a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, conspired to accept conduit campaign contributions, which are contributions made by one person in the name of another person. The purpose of the conduit contributions was to conceal the fact that the individuals who were actually financing the payments had an interest in legislation that was expected to be introduced, and eventually was introduced, before the Connecticut General Assembly during the 2012 legislative session. The candidate is also a current member of the Connecticut General Assembly.
“This indictment details an extensive conspiracy to corrupt the electoral process,” stated U.S. Attorney Fein. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI continue to investigate not only this matter, but all illegal behavior that corrupts our system of government.”
According to the indictment, Roll Your Own (“RYO”) smoke shops are retail businesses that sell loose smoking tobacco and cigarette-rolling materials and offer customers the option of paying a “rental” fee to insert the loose tobacco and the rolling materials into a RYO machine, which is capable of rapidly rolling large quantities of cigarettes. Customers do not pay a tax on the RYO cigarettes when rolled by the RYO machines, in contrast to cigarettes purchased over-the-counter. In August 2011, the state of Connecticut applied for an order permanently enjoining the RYO smoke shops from operating RYO machines, which the state argued were tobacco manufacturing devices under Connecticut law.
The indictment alleges that, in 2011, certain RYO smoke shop owners and others began to discuss the possibility that the Connecticut General Assembly would enact legislation harmful to RYO smoke shop owners’ business interests during the 2012 legislative session. In November 2011, the RYO shop owners arranged to meet with the member of the General Assembly to discuss their concerns. Also in November 2011, the RYO shop owners and others began to deliver to Braddock and the campaign checks in the amount of $2,500, which were, in fact, conduit contributions. Typically, the contributors were reimbursed with cash from one or more of the RYO shop owners. In November and December 2011, Braddock accepted a total of four $2,500 conduit campaign contributions.
The indictment further alleges that, on April 3, 2012, the Connecticut General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Finance, Revenue, and Bonding voted in favor of Senate Bill 357, legislation that would deem RYO smoke shop owners to be tobacco manufacturers under Connecticut law, a designation that would have subjected RYO smoke shop owners to a substantial licensing fee and tax increase. Approximately one week later, Braddock accepted an additional four $2,500 checks in the names of conduit contributors.
On May 9, 2012, the legislative session ended, and the legislation had not been called for a vote by either chamber of the General Assembly.
The indictment alleges that, on May 14, 2012, a co-conspirator who helped to arrange the previous eight conduit contributions delivered $10,000 to the campaign in the form of three $2,500 conduit contributions made payable to the campaign and one $2,500 conduit contribution made payable to a political party. After Braddock was informed by the co-conspirator the next day that one of the contributions was in the form of a bank check provided by one of the Roll-Your-Own shop owners, Braddock arranged for the check not to be deposited into the campaign’s bank account. On May 16, 2012, the co-conspirator and another co-conspirator, who was an aide to the campaign, met at a restaurant in Southington. At that meeting, the co-conspirator provided the campaign aide with a replacement $2,500 check in the name of a different conduit contributor who was not affiliated with any Roll-Your-Own shops.
The investigation of this matter has included numerous recorded conversations, as well as an FBI special agents acting in an undercover capacity.
The indictment charges Braddock with one count of conspiracy to conceal federal campaign contributions, a charge that carries a maximum term of five years and a fine of up to $250,000. Braddock also is charged with one count of accepting federal campaign contributions made by persons in the names of others, a charge that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of two years and a fine of up to $250,000. Finally, Braddock is charged with one count of causing false reports to be filed with the Federal Election Commission, a charge that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of up to $250,000.
U.S. Attorney Fein stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Christopher M. Mattei and Eric J. Glover.