Ex-Birdsall Engineering CEO, Execs Indicted in Pay-to-Play Evasion Probe
The former CEO of one of New Jersey's most powerful engineering firms and six other executives are under indictment, charged with conspiring to sidestep the state's Pay-to-Play Act by using company employees as straw donors to political campaigns, and getting millions in lucrative government contracts in return.
Howard C. Birdsall, 69, the largest shareholder of Eatontown-based Birdsall Services Group, face first-degree counts of conspiracy and money laundering in addition to other charges. Conviction on the first-degree charges carry possible prison terms of 10 to 20 years and penalties as high as $1,000,000.
Investigators in New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa's office contend that over a six-year span, the defendants pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into political warchests by funneling the money in amounts of $300 in the form of personal contributions by employees.
They allege that shareholders and workers were illegally reimbursed by Birdsall through bonuses, and that the contributions werre falsely omitted from filings with the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) and government agencies that awarded them service contracts.
"The defendants secured millions of dollars in public contracts for which they should have been disqualified," said Chiesa in a prepared release. "We have rules to prevent politically connected firms from stacking the deck in their favor in public contracting, but these defendants allegedly broke those rules and committed serious crimes."
Named in the indictment are:
- Howard C. Birdsall, 69, of Brielle, who retired late last year as CEO. He's accused of pulling in at least $49,808 in illegal reimbursements.
- Thomas Rospos, 61, of Belmar, a former Executive Vice President of Birdsall. The new indictment supersedes a previoius one in which Rospos was charged. Investigators believe he made at least $241,000 in illegal reimbursements.
- William Birdsall, 64, of Manchester, Howard's semi-retired brother, a large shareholder and the company's Senior Vice President. Authorities say his take in the scheme totals at least $74,459.
- Alan Hilla Sr., 73, of Brielle, Birdsall's Executive Vice President for Business Development and a major shareholder, also in semi-retirement. He's accused of raking in at least $148,309.
- Scott MacFadden, 58, of Brick, Birdsall's Chief Administrative Officer and former Brick Township Administrator during former Mayor Joseph Scarpelli's administration. Investigators believe he reaped at least $77,957.
- James Johnston, 51, of North Brunswick, President of Birdsall's Environmental Consulting Divisionl and a significant shareholder. Authorities accused him of skimming at least $45,797.
- Robert Gerard, 52, of Wall, Birdsall's ex-Chief Marketing Officer. Investigators say he also held large amounts of shares at one time and enriched himself by at least $48,700.
They also face lesser counts of false representations for government contracts, corporate misconduct, tampering with public records or information, falsifying records, prohibited corporatin contributions through employees, and concealment or misrepresentation of contributions or expenditures.
Two former Birdsall workers previously pleaded guilty to related charges.
On February 12, Eileen Kufahl, 48, of Bradley Beach pleaded guilty to a fourth-degree count of prohibited corporation contributions through employees in her function as former administrative assistant and marketing manager. She was given probation and agreed to forfeit $17,119 allegedly reimbursed to her by Rospos.
On November 30, 2012, former Birdsall marketing director Philip Angarone, 40, of Hamilton, took a guilty plea to thire-degree tampering with public records or information and fourth-detgree prohibited corporation contributions through employees. He has 364 days in jail pending and is required to forfeit $26,775 that he was reimbursed.
ELEC guidelines permit campaign contributions of $300 or less to go unreported, but require them above that figure, including the donor's name, address and employer.
Every for-profit business in New Jersey that obtains government contracts worth $50,000 or more in a calendar year is required to file statements outlining its agreements and reportable campaign contributions.