Ex-liquor board director admits tipping off those in bribery scheme to FBI probe

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Former Maryland delegate Michael L. Vaughn, on right, is accused of accepting more than $100,000 from liquor store owners in exchange for favorable votes on liquor-related legislation and is awaiting trial. Here, Vaughn and his attorney William Purpura leave a courthouse in March. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

The former director of the Prince George’s County liquor board pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday in a wide-reaching bribery scandal, admitting he facilitated thousands of dollars in payouts to elected officials and eventually tried to undermine an FBI investigation while he was wired as an informant.

David Dae Sok Son, 41, of Bowie entered guilty pleas on counts of bribery, conspiracy and obstruction of justice in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md., in a case involving elected officials, lobbyists and shop owners trying to expand liquor sales in Prince George’s.

Son, who was also a commissioner of the Prince George’s liquor board from 2005 to 2014, acted as a middle man between liquor store owners and elected officials to influence state legislation related to Sunday liquor sales, the government said.

When the FBI questioned Son in December, he then tried to tip off people being investigated about the probe, prosecutors said.

Son also told a restaurant manager in Beltsville who had agreed to pay a $50,000 bribe for a liquor license that the authorities were investigating the manager.

“Son pulled the manager into the walk-in cooler so the two could talk privately,” according to Son’s plea agreement. “Son told the manager that the ‘Feds’ were watching the manager and the manager should ‘skip town.’ ”

The manager — who had paid roughly $40,000 in bribes — subsequently left the country, prosecutors said.

In a handwritten letter to someone else being investigated by the FBI, Son told the person that he had been “taken” by the “Feds” and was “wired” during a previous conversation. In the letter, Son also detailed who the FBI was monitoring and listed those who were cooperating with authorities.

Son is one of eight people charged in the federal probe.

Former Prince George’s County Council member and Maryland delegate William A. Campos (D-Pr. George’s) is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to accepting $40,000 to $50,000 in kickbacks in exchange for official favors. Former delegate Michael L. Vaughn (D-Pr. George’s) is accused of accepting more than $100,000 from liquor store owners in exchange for favorable votes on liquor-related legislation. He is awaiting trial.

Authorities accused Son of being involved with several bribes of $1,000 to $5,000 each from 2012 to 2015 to Campos and Vaughn.

Payouts occurred in the men’s room at a restaurant and the parking lot of a shopping center, according to the plea agreement. During one lunch, Son told Campos that a liquor store owner was “going to hook you up.” Campos then received an envelope with $4,000 cash in the restroom of a restaurant to ensure liquor store owners and a lobbyist funding the bribe would receive Sunday liquor sales licenses, the plea agreement said.

The following month, Son connected Vaughn with liquor store owners, who said they’d pay as much as $50,000 for legislation that would benefit their sales, prosecutors said. Vaughn later agreed to introduce related legislation and then received a $4,000 payment facilitated by Son, prosecutors said.

Son faces up to 35 years in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced in January.

An attorney for Son could not be immediately reached for comment.

Others arrested in the federal investigation include: Matthew Gorman, a Hyattsville liquor lobbyist who pleaded guilty to bribing a state legislator; Felix Nelson Ayala, a Rockville accountant who pleaded guilty to bribing Campos in exchange for government funding; Anuj Sud, a former county liquor board commissioner accused of taking money in exchange for favorable votes; and Young Jung Paig and Shin Ja Lee, liquor store owners accused of funding bribes to Campos and Vaughn.

Gorman, Campos, Paig, Lee and Ayala are awaiting sentencing. Vaughn and Sud are awaiting trial.

via Washington Post

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