- Associated Press - Thursday, July 27, 2017

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Four suppliers of alcohol to Pennsylvania’s state-owned system of liquor stores have agreed to pay about $9 million in penalties for providing gifts to liquor agency officials, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Harrisburg said the vendors, in turn, will not be prosecuted.

A state ethics investigation ended the gift-giving practice 2012.

U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania Bruce Brandler said the decision to accept the payments rather than prosecute factored in the cooperation of the companies in the investigation and the “historic nature” of the gift-giving.

The board’s former marketing director was convicted of fraud in 2015 after being accused of accepting golf trips, gift cards, meals, sports tickets and other benefits from vendors over 10 years. James Short Jr. awaits sentencing.

In 2014, Short and two other former top officials at the control board had to pay the state thousands of dollars for various gifts, such as dinners and golf trips, they accepted from alcohol marketers and others.

The Liquor Control Board’s former chairman Patrick Stapleton III, chief executive Joe Conti and Short violated the ethics law when they did not report accepting the gifts, the ethics commission said.

Under a consent agreement issued by the ethics commission, Short had to pay the state $13,586, Stapleton $7,258 and Conti $2,388.

The government said Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits of Pennsylvania will pay $5 million for giving cash, all-expenses paid trips, and tickets to shows and sporting events to board officials from 2000 to 2012, Brandler said.

Breakthru Beverage Pennsylvania, formerly Capital Wine and Spirits, and White Rock Distilleries will pay $2 million each for giving away gift cards, tickets, meals and entertainment to the officials.

North Wales, Pennsylvania-based Pio Imports will pay $200,000 for handing out gift cards to officials.

The board issued a statement Thursday saying they have cooperated fully been with the investigation and have clarified and reissued its employee code of conduct.

The liquor board regulates the distribution of beverage alcohol in Pennsylvania, operates more than 600 wine and spirits stores statewide, and licenses 20,000 alcohol producers, retailers, and handlers.

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