By Shealyn Kilroy
It takes two to make a thing go right. Or wrong, according to court.
Each case in this week’s roundup didn’t make it to trial through the work of just one individual.
Twas the night before trial when former top executive of Birdsall Services Group (BSG) Thomas Rospos pleaded guilty to corporate misconduct, according to the Attorney General's office. Rospos, 64, of Belmar, N.J. was part of a scheme that made $1 million in corporate political contributions illegally through the firm’s employees to evade New Jersey’s pay-to-play law, according to the Attorney General’s office. BSG, now out of business, was an engineering firm behind projects like the New Jersey Turnpike.
BSG, Rospos and Howard Birdsall, the former CEO of BSG and the firm’s largest shareholder, were charged in an indictment on March 26, 2013, which also charged five other executives and shareholders. The NJ law bans corporate entities from receiving public contracts award by government entities if political contributions are made. Shareholders and employees of the firm made political contributions that amount to $300 or less, which don’t have to be reported. BSG bundled and sent off the personal checks to a certain political entity, and the employees and shareholders were reimbursed through added bonuses or other indirect matters. The scheme occurred for over six years.
In pleading guilty to the third-degree tampering with public records or information, Rospos must pay $150,000 to the state and will be debarred for 10 years from making personal bids on any N.J. public contracts or holding an interest of 5 percent or greater in any company that bids for such contracts. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that he be sentenced to three years in state prison. Rospos must waive the presumption against incarceration under state sentencing guidelines for a third-degree offense committed by a defendant with no felony record. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 13.
Birdsall, 72, of Brielle, N.J. pleaded guilty on Feb. 18 to to second-degree misconduct by a corporate official. He faces a recommended sentence of four years in prison and must forfeit $49,808 to the state. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 22. The entire BSG firm pleaded guilty on June 13, 2013 to charges of first-degree money laundering and second-degree making false representations for government contracts and paid 3.6 million dollars to the state in connection with this criminal case. The Attorney General’s office also names Scott MacFadden, 61, of Brick, N.J., Philip Angarone, 43, of Hamilton , N.J. and Eileen Kufahl, 51, of Bradley Beach, N.J. who pleaded guilty in relation to the scheme.
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania:
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Two Ukrainian brothers were sentenced to 20 years in prison for their roles in a human trafficking enterprise, announced the U.S. Attorney’s office on Feb. 25. Mykhaylo Botsvynyuk, 38, and Yaroslav Churuk, 48, were convicted at trial on Feb. 24, 2015, of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
The act, known as RICO, imposes penalties and a civil cause of action to leaders of a criminal organization. RICO is usually applied to Mafia cases, but was first used in a 2009 human trafficking case in Missouri, according to the AP. In addition to being charged under RICO, the brothers were charged with other offenses including peonage, involuntary servitude, extortion and attempted extortion and several immigration offenses. Mykhaylo Botsvynyuk, Omelyan Botsvynyuk, Yaroslav Churuk or Stepan Botsvynyuk had a role in familial ran enterprise that lured Ukrainian nationals to the U.S. and divided these smuggled workers in a crew per brother placed in multiple cities. From Fall of 2000 through the Spring of 2007, the defendants participated in the physical beatings of male workers, rape of a female worker and instituted a climate of fear to their workers to prevent them from escaping. The victims were not paid and were fed sparingly. In addition to the prison sentence, Mykhaylo and Yaroslav must serve three years of supervised release, pay joint and several restitution in the amount of $288,272, and pay a $100 special assessment. In a separate trial, Omelyan was convicted and sentenced to life plus 20 years, and Stepan was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Philadelphia District Attorney:
Trial for Joshua Voght and Andrew Baker was scheduled to begin on Feb. 24. Voght and Baker are charged with the murder of Moises Mora, robbery, conspiracy, and other related charges, according to the District Attorney’s office. On June 10, 2014, three men approached Mora who was sitting outside of a house on Caskey Street near 5th in Feltonville and threatened him. As Mora tried to escape, the gunmen shot him in the back and robbed his friends of money and a cellphone. An arrest warrant was issued for the third alleged gunman Kharee Muhammad four months after the slaying, according to philly.com. As of today, authorities have not stated that arrest has been made.
Pennsylvania Attorney General:
Two men accused of a telemarketing scheme based in Ohio received a 10.8 million dollar civil penalty that was imposed in a Commonwealth Court was announced by the Attorney General’s office on Feb. 25. Phillip Howells and Martin Vernello, as well as their corporations, Phil's Productions, LLC and MVP Productions, LLC called consumers to sell concert tickets claiming all the proceeds would go to firefighters unions located in McKeesport, New Castle, Sharon and Butler. Along with the firefighter lies, telemarketers also told consumers that the charitable contributions made would help handicapped children freely attend concerts. The dollar figure represents restitution to consumer, legal costs, and civil penalties that must be paid. Until the penalty is paid in full, Howells and Vernello are barred from collecting charitable donations in Pennsylvania.
Shealyn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org