Final defendant in Birdsall corruption probe pleads guilty
The ninth, and final, defendant in the long-running Birdsall Services political corruption case pleads guilty, and plans to seek a suspended sentence, according to New Jersey authorities.
Alan Hilla, 77, of Jupiter, Florida, accepted a second-degree count of misconduct by a corporate official, and cites health problems for his decision, according to the office of state Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino, which added that the terms of his plea bargain stipulate a five-year prison term. His scheduled sentencing date is September 1. Hilla is represented by Roseland attorney Michael Critchley.
Executives, employees and shareholders of the former Eatontown engineering house, including its founder and CEO, admitted roles in the scheme that prosecutors said enriched political campaigns by more than $1,000,000.
Investigators brought charges in a March 2013 indictment, alleging that Birdsall Services Group executives bundled checks written by employees in amounts below the threshold for reporting set by the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), circumventing New Jersey's "pay to play" laws regarding political donor influence. The workers were reimbursed through bonuses, and the reimbursed payments were excluded from ELEC reporting forms, investigators said.
The company, as an entity, entered a guilty plea in June 2013 to counts of money laundering and false representation of government contracts, paid $1,000,000 in penalties and another $2,600,000 to settle a forfeiture proceeding initiated by the Attorney General's office. Two workers pleaded guilty prior to the indictment. Eight executives pleaded guilty to various related charges.
In 2016, former CEO Howard Birdsall was given a four-year prison term; former Senior Vice President William Birdsall was sentenced to 270 days in a county jail and two years' probation; former Executive Vice President Thomas Rospos was sentenced to three years in prison; ex-Chief Adminstrative Officer Scott McFadden was recommended for a year minus a day in jail and a probationary term.
In 2017, former Chief Marketing Officer Robert Gerard, and James Johnston, the onetime president of the company's Environmental Services Group, were sentenced to 270 days in county jails and two years of probation.
Former Marketing Director Philip Angarone awaits sentencing for the guilty plea he entered in November 2012. Prosecutors seek 364 days in jail and a term of probation. Ex-Marketing Manager Eileen Kufahl was admitted to pre-trial intervention for the guilty plea she entered in February 2013.
Two anti-corruption incentive programs offered by Porrino's office expire August 1. One offers up to $25,000 for tips about public corruption. A second potentially allows low-level participants in corruption schemes avoid prosecution by reporting the activity. Information can be reported on line at the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice site, or by phone, 866-TIPS-4CJ.