Officials have been investigating campaign contributions to Chris Donovan's Congressional campaign.
Federal agents arrested the former manager of Connecticut House Speaker Chris Donovan's congressional campaign and several other people Thursday in an alleged scheme to hide the source of some campaign contributions.
A federal grand jury indicted the former campaign manager, Joshua Nassi, 34, of Fairfield, and five others, including a Waterbury detective, on conspiracy and other charges, federal prosecutors announced Thursday. Most of the defendants were to appear in U.S. District Court in New Haven on Thursday afternoon.
"This indictment represents the Department of Justice's commitment to investigate and prosecute those who aim to corrupt our system of government and the electoral process," Connecticut U.S. Attorney David B. Fein said in a statement.
Authorities also announced that Ray Soucy, 60, of Naugatuck, a former state Department of Correction worker, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to charges connected to the same investigation, including devising a scheme to bribe a public official.
According to court documents, he told a roll your own tobacco shop owner on Nov. 18, 2011:
"The chances of [Public Official Number 1] calling the bill are gonna be none. As long as we do what we're supposed to do. ... So everybody understands, politics is about the Benjamins."
You can read the entire document on allegations against Soucy here.
Donovan denies any involvement and hasn't been charged in the alleged scheme to hide the source of $27,500 in campaign contributions tied to an effort to defeat legislation to raise taxes on "roll-your-own" smoke shop owners.
He continues to run for the Democratic nomination for the 5th Congressional District seat now held by Democrat Chris Murphy, who is running for U.S. Senate.
Among those charged Thursday were Paul Rogers and George Tirado, two Waterbury men who co-own Smoke House Tobacco, a roll-your-own smoke shop with two locations in Waterbury. A store employee, Benjamin Hogan, was also charged. A phone listing for Smoke House Tobacco was no longer in service Thursday.
Tirado is a detective with Waterbury police.
"Detective George Tirado was arrested this morning by the FBI on charges stemming from the campaign finance investigation regarding roll your own cigarette legislation. Tirado had a financial interest into two roll your own cigarette businesses here in Waterbury. Tirado is a 14-year-veteran of the Waterbury Police Department and he has never been the subject of any disciplinary action," Waterbury Police Chief Michael Gugliotti, said in a released statement. "Due to this ongoing federal investigation, Tirado has been on administrative leave since July 20th pending the outcome of both the federal investigation and an internal affairs investigation by our department."
Gugliotti referred regarding the charges or the criminal investigation to federal authorities.
Two other men were indicted: David Moffa, 52, of Middlebury, former president of the labor union that represents state prison guards, and businessman Daniel Monteiro, 33, of Wolcott.
Donovan's former campaign finance director, Robert Braddock Jr., was the first person charged in the case in May. He has pleaded not guilty. Authorities said Thursday that the grand jury also indicted Braddock on new information.
The charges in the new indictments include conspiracy to make false statements to the Federal Election Commission, accepting more than $10,000 in federal campaign contributions made by persons in the names of others, making false statements to FBI agents, and causing false reports to be filed with the FEC.
Nassi's lawyer, Bill Bloss, declined to comment before Thursday's court appearances. Other attorneys in the case didn't return messages.
Authorities said the scheme began as early as November 2011 and involved several owners of roll-your-own tobacco shops who wanted to stop legislation before the General Assembly that could subject them to new taxes and licensing fees.
Braddock is accused of conspiring with others to use conduit contributors to violate federal campaign contribution limits and hide where the funds originated.
Federal authorities accuse Braddock and others of being responsible for $27,500 in conduit contributions, or 11 checks of $2,500, from November 2011 through May 2012.
Ultimately, the bill that would have imposed the taxes and fees on roll-your-own shops did not pass during this year's regular session of the General Assembly because it was not called up for a vote in the Senate. However, lawmakers later passed the legislation during a special session.
Donovan fired Nassi and Braddock after the allegations become public. Former U.S. Attorney Stanley Twardy, whom Donovan hired to do an independent investigation, found no evidence that Donovan was involved in or knew about the alleged scheme.
Donovan faces an Aug. 14 primary against two fellow Democrats -- political newcomer Daniel Roberti and former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty. The race for the Republican nomination includes state Sen. Andrew Roraback, businessman Mark Greenberg, businesswoman Lisa Wilson-Foley and U.S. Navy veteran Justin Bernier.