Prosecutors: Politically Connected Contractor Circumvented Campaign Finance Law
TOMS RIVER – Howard Birdsall, former CEO of the now-defunct Birdsall Services Group pled guilty to second degree charges of corporate misconduct before Ocean County Superior Court Judge James Den Uyl Thursday for his role in a criminal pay-to-play scheme that saw his company funnel over $ 1 million in political campaign contributions, which were revealed to have been made through employees of his firm in violation of New Jersey campaign finance law. Birdsall’s company was a Monmouth County based engineering firm specializing in government contract work. The company was indicted in 2013 for the same scheme.
The political contributions were a part of a quid-pro-quo scheme to get no-bid public contracts awarded to the firm by elected officials that received money from Birdsall and employees.
According to New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission public records, the Birdsall firm gave generously to many Ocean County candidates. The firm last raked in $13,427,904.59 in public contracts in 2012 before the indictment came out and at that time gave $107,766.00 to area candidates.
Employees of the company allegedly conspired to avoid the restrictions of New Jersey’s Pay-to-Play Act by disguising illegal corporate political contributions as personal contributions of firm employees.
Takes Plea Agreement
Birdsall’s guilty plea comes from a plea agreement reached between the defendant and the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office. The state will recommend a sentence that includes four years in state prison along with requiring Birdsall to pay back $49,808 in illegal campaign contributions to the state. The sentencing hearing will be held April 22nd.
“As the CEO and largest shareholder of Birdsall Services Group, Howard Birdsall reaped major profits from the millions of dollars in public contracts his firm secured each year – contracts that should have been off limits based on the illegal campaign contributions made by the firm,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “This plea should serve as a warning to any corporate officials who would engage in this type of criminal scheme to skirt our pay-to-play law and skew public contracting in their favor.”
Firm Paid Penalties, 6 Others Charged
In addition to Howard Birdsall being punished personally, Birdsall Services Group, Inc. was charged for first-degree money laundering, second-degree making false representations for government contracts. Acccording to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, the company paid two major criminal penalties: $500,000 for public corruption profiteering along with a $500,000 money laundering penalty. In a seperate civil forfeiture action, the firm paid to the state $2.6 million in connection with its illegal activities.
As a result of its assets being frozen along with the penalties, the firm went bankrupt and out of business.
Also charged was Scott MacFadden, 61, of Brick, the former chief administrative officer of the firm, pleaded guilty on Jan. 6 to a charge of third-degree misconduct by a corporate official. The state will recommend that he be sentenced to up to 364 days in jail as a condition of a term of probation. He also must pay $30,000 to the state, representing forfeiture of the political contributions he made that the firm reimbursed.
Thomas Rospos, 64, of Belmar, a former executive vice president of BSG, is scheduled to go on trial later in February.
Two former employees of the marketing department of BSG, Philip Angarone, 43, of Hamilton (Mercer County), N.J., the former marketing director, and Eileen Kufahl, 51, of Bradley Beach, N.J., pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme before the indictment was returned and are awaiting sentencing.
All of the remaining defendants who are charged in the indictment face first-degree counts of conspiracy and money laundering, as well as other charges. The first-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison, and the money laundering counts also carry fines and penalties of up to $1 million.