NAUGATUCK — Harry Raymond Soucy of Naugatuck pleaded guilty to charges in connection to a federal investigation involving contributions to House Speaker Christopher Donovan’s campaign for a congressional seat in the state’s 5th District.
Federal prosecutors announced Thursday that Soucy, 60, 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.
Soucy faces up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced.
Soucy presented himself as a political puppet master who could use his pull with Donovan to get things done in the legislature.
Soucy, according to federal prosecutors, agreed to use his influence as part of a criminal conspiracy to help kill legislation that owners of roll-your-own cigarette shops opposed.
He bragged that Donovan was his “good friend,” and that the speaker could use his position to help roll-your-own shops. He set up a meeting between selected shop owners and Donovan last November.
Then Soucy later became an FBI informant who helped set up shop owners and high-ranking workers in Donovan’s congressional campaign.
Prosecutors did not provide any information about a plea deal, so it is not known what, if any, considerations Soucy will receive for agreeing to work with investigators.
The government on Thursday released a 19-page charging document that provided more details of Soucy’s involvement in the conspiracy.
Soucy was described in the document as one of the players who devised the scheme to use straw contributors to make illegal contributions to Donovan’s campaign.
The conspiracy’s aim was to block legislation that might be harmful to roll-your-own businesses. Conspirators contributed $27,500 to Donovan to stop that from happening.
“So everybody understands, politics is about the Benjamins,” Soucy allegedly said when he solicited a contribution from a tobacco shop owner last November.
According to the scheme, shop owners agreed to initially contribute $10,000 to Donovan and give up to $30,000 more later if necessary.
Owners of roll-your-own businesses became concerned about the legislature after the Department of Revenue Services went to court to try to shut down one shop last summer.
Federal investigators say Soucy described the illegal contributions to Donovan as a hedge in a conversation with a shop owner.
“If it goes good for you in court, you know they’re gonna try and come with legislation. That’s what you’re buying. You’re buying insurance,” he reportedly said.
In late February, shop owners decided to proceed with the additional payments after the tax department suffered a setback in court.
Two undercover FBI agents had infiltrated the conspiracy by posing as investors in roll-your-own businesses. They would provide an additional $20,000 to finance illegal contributions.
One of the agents provided a first installment of $10,000 to Soucy and a $1,000 payment to him on April 4. A day earlier, the legislature’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee approved legislation to license roll-your-own businesses and require shops to tax their customers.
When the agent handed over the money, he told Soucy, “It is too late in the game to fumble now,” and Soucy replied, “It’s a game that lucky enough, I have the contacts to play good in it.”
On April 26, the FBI confronted Soucy and he agreed to cooperate in the investigation. Federal authorities have not divulged what Soucy said when he found out that he had been caught.
Soucy, a longtime union executive and political activist, stepped down from three ranking union positions and retired from the state Department of Corrections after his name surfaced in connection to the investigation earlier this year.
Soucy is one of seven men indicted in connection with the case, but the only one to be convicted so far.
Federal investigators say the scheme was hatched at Smoke House Tobacco, a roll-your-own business with two locations in Waterbury.
Co-owners George Tirado, 35, of Wolcott, and Paul Rogers, 39, of Watertown, are among the newly indicted co-conspirators. Tirado is a Waterbury police detective who was placed on administrative leave last Friday by Police Superintendent Michael Gugliotti.
Tirado told Gugliotti he had been interviewed by FBI agents in connection with the probe, which is what prompted Gugliotti to put him on leave. Tirado was charged Thursday with making false statements to those agents.
The following individuals were also indicted:
Benjamin Hogan, 33, of Southington, an employee of Smoke House Tobacco.
David “Buffalo” Moffa, 52, of Middlebury, a former president of a prison union and friend of Soucy.
Daniel Montiero, 33, of Wolcott, owner of Villwell Builders.
Josh Nassi, 34, of Fairfield, Donovan’s former campaign manager and a former member of his legislative staff.
Donovan said the additional indictments were not unexpected, but the allegations still stunned him. He again denied any wrongdoing or any knowledge of the scheme.
While Donovan has denied any involvement, federal authorities have not publicly ruled him out as a target of their ongoing criminal investigation.
Robert Braddock Jr., 33, of Meriden, was the first defendant to be indicted in the conspiracy. He pleaded innocent to a three-count indictment two weeks ago. Jury selection in his case is scheduled for September.
Braddock is Donovan’s former finance director for his congressional campaign.
According to the indictment, Rogers, Tirado and other shop owners became concerned that the legislature might enact legislation that would be harmful to the state’s growing roll-your-own industry.
On Nov. 15, Soucy and Rogers delivered the first straw contribution for $2,500 to Braddock at a Donovan fundraiser in Waterbury. The indictment said Rogers and Tirado had an employee of Smoke House Tobacco write that check.
In late February, the shop owners involved decided to make additional payments after the tax department suffered a setback in its court action against Tracey’s Smoke and Tobacco Shop. They became concerned about the legislature enacting legislation that would harm the growing and lucrative roll-your-own industry.
The indictment alleges that Rogers and other roll-your-own shop owners reimbursed straw contributors.
It says Monteiro and one of his employees wrote checks to Donovan’s campaign May 14, the day that Donovan secured the Democratic endorsement in the 5th District. It does not name the employee.
Hogan also wrote a personal check for $2,500 that day. However, the indictment says the check was not cashed because of Hogan’s connection to Smoke House Tobacco.
Moffa had written a bogus check in his wife’s name in December, according to the indictment, which says that he, Rogers, Tirado and Soucy were part of the conspiracy from its start.
Braddock, Nassi and Rogers are charged with accepting more than $10,000 in straw contributions. Rogers is also facing charges for devising the illegal contribution scheme.
Braddock, Nassi, Moffa, Rogers and Tirado are also charged with causing false reports to be filed with the FEC. Moffa is accused of also making false statements to FBI agents.
With the exception of Monteiro, the men were presented in federal court in New Haven on Thursday. They pleaded not guilty to the charges. Monteiro was in Florida and was expected to be returned for presentment Friday.
The men were released on $100,000 bonds that were secured by their homes. Should they fail to show up to court, or break certain court and probation rules, they risk losing those properties. Judge Joan Margolis ordered the men not to travel outside of Connecticut, but she allowed a handful of exceptions.
Moffa, who has three children in college, will be allowed to bring his son to Boston and his daughter to New York. He’ll also be allowed to attend a wedding in Philadelphia and a golf outing in Vermont.
Tirado can take a family vacation to Rhode Island. Rogers will be allowed to head to New York to catch a Yankees game.
Margolis ordered that five firearms owned by Moffa be surrendered to police in Middlebury. Tirado turned in his department-issued sidearm when he was placed on leave.
If they’re found guilty, the men could go to prison for years. Tirado is facing up to five years on each felony count. If convicted, he’ll be disqualified from seeking work as a cop, as he can’t be re-certified by the Police Officer Standards Training Council.
Jury selection for the cases is scheduled for Oct. 10.