The co-owner of a roll-your-own smoke shop charged in an alleged scheme to direct illegal campaign contributions into Chris Donovan's campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives pleaded guilty on Wednesday to one count of devising a scheme to bribe a public official, according to federal officials.
Paul Rogers, 40, of Middlebury, is the co-owner of Smoke House Tobacco, a roll-your-own smoke shop with two locations in Waterbury, according to federal officials.
He also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to make false statements to the Federal Election Commission and to impede the FEC’s enforcement of federal campaign finance laws.
Donovan, former speaker of the State House of Representatives, denied any involvement and was not implicated.
Authorities said the alleged scheme to hide the source of $27,500 in campaign contributions was tied to an effort to defeat legislation to raise taxes on "roll-your-own" smoke shop owners.
It 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, federal officials said.
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.
Rogers will be sentenced on March 20.
He is the third person to plead guilty to charges related to this scheme.
On July 24, Harry Raymond “Ray” Soucy, a former state Department of Correction worker pleaded guilty to one count of devising a scheme to bribe a public official and one count of conspiring to make false statements to the FEC and to impede the FEC’s enforcement of federal campaign finance laws.
On Nov. 2, David Moffa pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to make false statements to the FEC and to impede the FEC’s enforcement of federal campaign finance laws. Soucy and Moffa also await sentencing.