(Updated 3:37 p.m.) Federal authorities arrested six more individuals connected to the campaign finance scandal involving donations made to the Chris Donovan’s campaign Thursday morning.
According to a recently unsealed federal indictment, the feds arrested Josh Nassi, Donovan’s former campaign manager, Benjamin Hogan, an employee of Smoke House Tobacco, David Moffa, a former union president, Daniel Monterio, an owner of a company in Waterbury, Paul Rogers, a co-owner of Smoke House Tobacco, and George Tirado, another co-owner of Smoke House Tobacco.
Hogan, Moffa, Nassi, Rogers, and Tirado will appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joan G. Margolis at 2 p.m. today in New Haven federal court. Monterio is out of state and his first appearance has yet to be scheduled.
Until today, the only one indicted by federal authorities was Donovan’s former finance director Robert Braddock Jr. The information released Thursday brings the number of those indicted in the case up to seven.
Earlier this month, Braddock pleaded not guilty to three counts of conspiring to hide the source of nearly $30,000 in campaign donations to his former boss’ campaign on behalf of a group of smoke shop owners looking to defeat legislation.
Braddock worked for Donovan’s campaign for Connecticut’s 5th U.S. Congressional District seat.
The Courant reported earlier this week that the former union official believed to be one of the three unnamed co-conspirators in the original indictment was seen leaving federal court.
Ray Soucy, the former union official, had no comment for Fox News reporter George Colli as he exited court Tuesday with his attorney and the proceedings were not open to the public. According to the U.S. Attorney’s office Soucy pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of devising a scheme to bribe a public official, and one count of conspiring to make false statements to the Federal Election Commission. He faces a maximum term of 20 years in prison on the fraud conviction and a maximum term of five years on the conspiracy conviction.
According to the information provided Thursday, Soucy was the one who arranged for the straw donations to be delivered to the Donovan campaign on behalf of the smoke shop owners.
The last $10,000 in straw donations, according to Braddock’s indictment, was delivered May 14 at the Democratic nominating convention.
When Soucy entered the convention he was taken to a separate room where Donovan approached him and engaged him in a conversation, according to the indictment. Following that conversation, which is not detailed in the indictment, Soucy was led into a back room where he delivered three $2,500 payments to the campaign, and one $2,500 check to the Democratic Party.
As he was exiting the building, Soucy saw Braddock who then guided him to a “quiet location,” according to the indictment. Soucy then told Braddock “he had just ‘thanked the man,’ and that ‘twenty thousand was well worth it . . . And another ten grand.’”
“You’re the man,” Braddock replied, according to the 20-page indictment.
Donovan has denied having any knowledge that his campaign staffers were trying to trade his influence as Speaker of the House for campaign donations.
As soon as Braddock was arrested at the end of May, Donovan fired him, Nassi, and Sara Waterfall, the deputy finance director. The campaign hired former U.S. Attorney Stanley Twardy to conduct an independent investigation, which concluded Donovan had no knowledge of the allegedly illegal donations.
With three weeks to go before the Democratic primary, Donovan still has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but the ongoing investigation continues to be a liability for his campaign.
The latest indictment puts Donovan even closer to the action, alluding to statements made by others on May 8 and May 16 suggesting that he helped kill the roll-your-own legislation, here:
On May 8, 2012, Soucy and NASSI discussed a series of proposed amendments to the RYO Legislation that would have effectively stripped the RYO licensing and tax provisions from the legislation. Soucy advised NASSI that “it looks like the RYO language is getting taken out for free, or . . . is Public Official Number I behind this?” NASSI responded, “Yeah, yeah, I mean we’ve been sending the message that the bill is dead,” which, according to NASSI, may have prompted other legislators to load the bill down with other amendments. Soucy then advised NASSI that “where credit’s due, they want to give credit, but . . . if it’s not due, they don’t want to do. They’re ending up with a freebie.” NASSI responded, “what’s happening is all this stuff is happening behind the scenes. They’re telling people that the bill is dead . . . So, once, once the message is sent that the bill is dead, thatrs when you start seeing all these other amendments.” Soucy then confirmed, “So, [Public Official Numberl] is behind the deal, which is good,” to which NASSI responded, “Yeah, yeah.”
During the evening of May 16, 2012, Soucy met NASSI at a restaurant in Southington, Connecticut. At that meeting, NASSI provided Soucy with the check that BRADDOCK and Soucy had agreed should be returned because it was written in a RYO smoke shop owner’s name. In exchange, Soucy provided NASSI with another $2,500 check in the name of a different conduit contributor, who was not affiliated with the RYO smoke shops but, rather, was another employee of MONTEIRO’s construction company. NASSI said, “I definitely appreciate it, man.” Soucy responded, “Hey, he did what he said he was gonna do. Gonna kill the bill, he killed the bill. You know?” Soucy and NASSI then discussed the fact that other legislators had attached meaningless amendments to the RYO Legislation after learning of Public Official Number l’s opposition. Soucy said, “So [Public Official Number l] put out the word, ‘dead’?” NASSI responded, “Yeah. Yes he did.”
The legislation died during the regular legislative session which ended May 9 when it was never called for a vote in the Senate. But legislation is never truly dead and some lawmakers, along with the Department of Revenue Services, wanted it revived for special legislative session on June 12.
On May 24 a legislative aide sent Nassi an electronic message informing him the RYO legislation may be revived during the special legislative session. The indictment says the legislative aide and Nassi then discussed strategies to prevent it from being considered.
Braddock was arrested by the FBI on May 31.
The RYO legislation was eventually passed during the June 12 special session, in part because lawmakers didn’t want the public to think their influence could be bought.