- Associated Press - Friday, March 17, 2017

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Former state treasurer Rob McCord said Friday during testimony in the bribery trial of a wealthy suburban Philadelphia investment adviser that he may have to take the stand in yet another criminal case.

Testifying for a third day in Richard Ireland’s trial in federal court, McCord said prosecutors have held out that possibility as part of his cooperation in his extortion case that forced his resignation from the treasurer’s office two years ago.

McCord, a Democrat, made the statement under questioning by Ireland’s lawyer, Reid Weingarten, who pressed McCord for details of his cooperation with the FBI as McCord recorded conversations for them in late 2014. Assistant U.S. Attorney William Houser later declined to comment on any potential investigation or target.

Still, McCord told Weingarten that former Sallie Mae CEO Al Lord had called him while he was recording calls and that federal investigators had asked him to record his conversations with Ireland and one other man.

Weingarten described that second target as an elderly man in Scranton, a former addict who was connected to organized crime.

“I wouldn’t say organized crime,” McCord interjected.

“People with money who are of interest to law enforcement,” Weingarten responded.

In an interview Friday, Lord said he had not had any contact with federal investigators or been told that his calls with McCord had been recorded. Lord, a Republican, gave $500,000 to McCord’s failed campaign for governor.

McCord, 58, resigned after being ensnared in the FBI’s wide-ranging pay-to-play investigation of Pennsylvania state government. McCord is cooperating with federal authorities after getting caught on tape in 2014 attempting to use his position as state treasurer to strong-arm donations to his gubernatorial campaign. He pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted extortion and is awaiting sentencing.

With McCord on the stand Friday, Weingarten’s questioning revealed that a onetime top aide to former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, John Estey, had made secret recordings of his conversations with McCord for federal authorities after Estey himself had been ensnared in an FBI sting targeting lobbying and campaign donations. McCord acknowledged that he and Estey had discussed creating a political action committee to collect campaign contributions for McCord from Republican donors who had wanted to veil their support for a Democrat in the governor’s race.

Estey pleaded guilty to wire fraud last year.

Ireland, of Coatesville, is accused of trying to bribe McCord with more than $500,000 in secret campaign contributions in what prosecutors call part of a yearslong scheme to land lucrative contracts to invest taxpayer dollars. Prosecutors say Ireland funneled the cash for six years to McCord’s campaigns through friends, family members, businesses and employees of his business.

Ireland’s lawyers counter that McCord used Ireland, not the other way around, and that Ireland never sought an illegal exchange as he advocated for legitimate business interests.

They say Ireland, 80, donated to McCord as a longtime and loyal friend, not as a transaction to get McCord’s help in landing state investment business. Ireland helped start a firm that markets the services of investment companies to states and other public agencies, as well as an index fund created and licensed by Ireland.

Ireland and his partner in VFIM Corp., Brian G. McElwee, shared in millions of dollars in Treasury Department fees paid to their client firms since 2000. They were also well-known campaign donors, giving more than $1 million combined to political groups, committees and candidates since the late 1990s, according to state and federal records.

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