- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A former Maryland delegate and Prince George’s County Council member has pleaded guilty to federal charges of taking bribes in exchange for county grant funds.

Will Campos pleaded guilty to conspiracy and bribery charges on Thursday and could face up to 10 years in prison. Federal prosecutors unsealed the plea agreement Tuesday.

“This undercover investigation did not involve an isolated instance of misconduct,” Rod Rosenstein, U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland, said in a statement. “It exposed a long-standing practice of giving away taxpayer money in exchange for bribes. This type of corruption can flourish when government officials exercise discretion without oversight.”

As part of the plea deal, Campos will be required to forfeit and pay restitution of at least $340,000. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for conspiracy and a maximum of 10 years for bribery.

U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis has scheduled sentencing for April 10.

Campos’ attorney, Barry Levine of the law firm Blank Rome LLP, provided a statement:

“This is a difficult time for Will Campos. He has transgressed and he acknowledges his wrongdoing. He is deeply remorseful and accepts full responsibility for his profound error. People are complex. It would be a mistake to judge him only through the acts which are the subject of his error. He is a man of great compassion and decency. Through his public service he has affected the lives of many in a multitude of positive ways. He is a deeply religious man and prays that the Court will acknowledge his many redeeming qualities.”

The bribery charges stemmed from Campos’ tenure on the County Council, where he represented District 2 from 2004 to 2014. He served as a delegate in the General Assembly from 2014 to 2015. He resigned less than a year into his term to focus on his family and professional career.

Under county law, each council member is allowed to award $100,000 in grant funds to nonprofit service organizations of their choosing. Campos, 42, said in the plea deal that he accepted bribes in exchange for a portion of the grant funds.

Prosecutors said Campos and another person met with a cooperating witness on Dec. 9, 2012, to discuss moving the witness’ business to the county. They met again on Dec. 21, 2012, and the witness gave Campos an envelope with $3,000 in cash.

Campos told the witness to find a nonprofit organization, and Campos would arrange a grant that the organization could share with the witness. On Feb. 6, 2013, the witness received a check for $5,000 issued to the organization, with a note saying the funds were from District 2.

In July 2013, Campos met with another person to discuss funneling money from grant funds. Campos said he was going on vacation and “could use an advance on my trip,” prosecutors said.

Campos received another $3,000 payment with the promise that he would dole out more grant money to the organization of that person’s choice. In November 2013, Campos released $5,000 in grant funds, except this time it was to an FBI agent posing as a businessman.

Campos continued the bribery into 2014, going so far as to say he couldn’t be touched for what he was doing. The FBI captured that exchange.

“I told you, you were a bad influence,” Campos told the undercover agent.

“Oh, man. You can always say no. You say no to me right now. You say no, you walk away,” the agent said.

“I’m a mortal man — that’s the problem,” Campos replied.

Campos also admitted that he received bribes from other individuals, the U.S. attorney’s office said. From 2001 through 2014, Campos received $21,000 to $24,000 from two county business owners in exchange for about $325,000 in grant money to entities controlled by those business owners.

The 17-page agreement also implicates Campos in a recent county liquor board scandal. Last week, four people were charged with bribery in a suspected scheme between the board and two liquor store owners to influence votes on liquor laws.

In 2007, Campos received $1,000 from a Prince George’s County nightclub owner in exchange for favorable testimony before the liquor board.

Board Commissioner Anuj Sud and board Director David Son were charged Thursday along with Young Jung Paig, owner of the Central Avenue Restaurant & Liquor Store, and Shin Ja Lee, owner of the Palmer Liquor Store.

Federal prosecutors said Mr. Son in 2015 solicited bribes from lobbyists and business owners, including Mr. Paig and Mr. Lee. Court documents say Mr. Sud solicited bribes from a lobbyist in exchange for assistance with liquor board matters.

• Ryan M. McDermott can be reached at rmcdermott@washingtontimes.com.

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