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Former Executive of Engineering Firm Indicted in Pay-to-Play Scheme

Belmar man's indictment comes less than two weeks after another former executive of Birdsall Services Group pleaded guilty

A former executive of Birdsall Services Group, a Monmouth-based engineering firm, was indicted today, less than two weeks after another executive pleaded guilty for his role in a scheme to avoid the state's pay-to-play regulations.

Thomas Rospos, 60, of Belmar was indicted after being accused of disguising illegal corporate political contributions as personal contributions by employees of the firm, according to a release from the Attorney General's Office.

“Mr. Rospos allegedly conspired with others at Birdsall Services Group to circumvent New Jersey’s pay-to-play law through a fraudulent scheme in which extra bonuses were paid to employees to reimburse them for making unreported political contributions,” said Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa. “By engaging in this scheme, we allege that they unlawfully bolstered their political connections while continuing to receive public contracts for which they should have been disqualified.”

Rospos, the former executive vice president of Birdsall, has been charged with second-degree conspiracy, making false representations for government contracts, misconduct by a corporate official and money laundering. Each of the counts carry a potential five- to 10-year prison sentence.

He also was charged with tampering with public records or information, falsifying or tampering with records, prohibited corporation contributions through employees and concealment or misrepresentation of contributions or expenditures.

Joseph Hayden, attorney for Birdsall Services Group, said the firm is fully cooperating with authorities.

"The allegations outlined in these charges all occurred under previous management at Birdsall Services Group," Hayden said in a statement to Patch. "We have been fully cooperating with the Attorney General’s Office throughout the course of this investigation, and once we were made aware of potential discrepancies swift action was taken resulting in a new CEO, significant personnel changes, and the hiring of former New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice James Zazzali, who will oversee the newly established internal processes to ensure complete compliance going forward.”

Former Birdsall marketing director Philip Angarone, 40, of Hamilton pleaded guilty Nov. 30 before Superior Court Judge Wendel E. Daniels in Ocean County to an accusation charging him with third-degree tampering with public records or information and fourth-degree prohibited corporation contributions through employees. He faces up to 364 days in jail and a term of probation.

Under the scheme to which Angarone admitted, instead of Birdsall Services Group making corporate political contributions to campaigns and political organizations that would disqualify it from public contracts awarded by certain government agencies, shareholders and employees of the firm would make personal political contributions of $300 or less, which are deemed unreportable, the attorney general's office said.

Multiple personal checks would be bundled together at Birdsall and sent to the appropriate campaign or political organization. Shareholders and employees would then be illegally reimbursed by Birdsall in the form of added bonus payments, and the firm would falsely omit the illegally reimbursed contributions in documents filed with the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) and with government agencies that awarded the firm engineering services contracts, the attorney general's office said.

“We’re continuing our investigation into illegal corporate political contributions made on behalf of Birdsall Services Group,” said Stephen J. Taylor, director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Each of these actions we have taken, including this indictment and the recent guilty plea, serve to move our case forward substantially.”

Laura December 11, 2012 at 09:38 PM
That seems to be the same thing that happened with another law firm in a municipal election in Point Pleasant when Susan Rogers was running. A couple of the secretaries made donations to Rogers' campaign. HMM It can be verified on the election reports.
Vito December 12, 2012 at 01:21 AM
All the towns should be checked for this type of practice. Also corporations and personal donations who give donations to the schools for sports teams so their kids could play. Conflict on interest if you ask me. Who do you think winds of getting more play time. It is not the public school kid that parents can't afford to give any donations. It is sickening what has been allowed to go on.
Claudine Scozzari December 12, 2012 at 12:58 PM
Laura - This is another problem all together. Birdsall is an engineering firm; however, I don't hear about the engneering staff who do all the "grunt work" for the different government entities in the news. Most of the executives do not have degrees in engineering. And, as a result, the infrastructure of the community is neglected or severely damaged unnecessarily by executives who are not using "science" in their decision making. Case in point, the State hearings on the damage to the rail cars in Kearny during Sandy. When was the last time a Senate hearing actually had a person with an engineering degree on the stand - from my recollection - Greg Soriano during the E-ZPass hearings. From your comment, the firm's secretaries are creating the problem. These are the people controlling the State's infrastructure. A secretary who may or may not have a high school degree.
IloveHazlet December 12, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Wow! ANY WONDER the County Freeholders voted to rescind the pay-to-play restrictions previously put in place? Mrs. Birdsall is Freeholder Lillian Burry's CAMPAIGN MANAGER! Your article states "Multiple personal checks would be bundled together at Birdsall and sent to the appropriate campaign or political organization." APPROPRIATE? Far from it! They certainly were DESIGNATED to certain "poli-ticians!" Latin for MANIPULATORS OF THE PEOPLE. In all fairness - Birdsall is just the tip of the iceberg! Engineering Firms with County appointments have probably all done the same thing - and it is probably RAMPANT throughout the State. Threshold Shmeshold! "Pay-to-Play" laws are obviously just political BS to make the public feel as though their representatives are "stand-up" folks. What a bunch of bull.
Claudine Scozzari December 12, 2012 at 03:37 PM
I agree; the entire "Pay-to-Play" issue was a bunch of hogwash. Government employees should be procuring contracts, not elected politicians. Elected politicians represent a government "for the people, by the people". Elected politicians should be interogating the government workers for the lack of action taken as it pertains to government functions. In the editorial posted on NJ.com - "Changes to NJ competitive bidding rules...", non competitive bidding can occur on professional services, emergency contracts, and government-to-government contracts. However, the professionals providing the service needs to be qualified for funding reimbursement in the area of expertise - meaning a secretary (of either gender) needs to have the proper educational level and on-the-job experience for the service contract. The pay-to-play issue was an excuse to investigate everyone under the sun because someone in an executive position lacked any leadership decisions that financially benefitted the State of NJ. And, the only reason the "pay-to-play" catch phrase is still in motion is because the original "hole in the State's budget" still to this day, more than 15 years later needs to be rectified by the State workers on the government payroll. The problems that caused the entire pay-to-play issue has not been and probably will never be rectified by those in charge in my lifetime.
Claudine Scozzari December 12, 2012 at 04:14 PM
It's a good thing that the Department of Corrections Human Resource director was tapped to lead the Human resources efforts over at the NJDOT (the industry associated historically with Birdsall). Does the Corrections Department have a capacity problem with all the "check bundles" being sent to Trenton and their regional area locations of the elected officials. The politicians know where the checks should be sent. If the communication lines were actually in place during Sandy, the problems encounted by the Public Safety folks may have been avoided. (If you know where to send the checks, you know where communication for emergency services are needed.) To Engineer Birdsall - may you rest in peace and thank you for the memories granted to us familiar with the Jersey Shore because of your work!
Thomas Townsend December 12, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Everyone is always looking for any loop hole to save a buck! What they need do, is look into the accountants! I doubt these people devised these schemes all by themselves, and Yes, I believe all the municipalities and a lot of small firms and business are engaging in similar if not more reckless illegal behaviors and activities! It's NJ after all! And yes a great deal of "little, insignificant, employees (in their minds), are being used and lied to about why there is no money for a raise or they can't afford to pay their health insurance, etc. Etc. The economy is only as bad as the people holding all the cards want you to see it to be! They aren't having their three vacation homes foreclosed on?! So why are so many forced to give up the only homes they own? This is what happens when there is zero regulation, the GREEDY get greedier and all trying to get ahead are held back because of this facade set forth that the economy is so terrible! These people didn't have to put off their family vacation(s) this year! I think we all have to open our eyes and hold people accountable!
Claudine Scozzari December 12, 2012 at 06:11 PM
The accountants have already been investigated. The accountants knew which Project Managers/Government entitites/Procurement officers had contracts the State/Municpality were paying. The Government wasn't paying for certain work, even after the work was constructed and government approval.
Claudine Scozzari December 12, 2012 at 06:20 PM
In the USA, the following is the LOOP HOLE: The State Government can publically publish titles and salaries for their State employees; however, the State does not guarantee the work will be performed by the State Government worker. Anyone or any company can perform work for the government without the government paying you. It's a free country, and you a free to do what you want. According to the first amendment, there is a freedom of speech law. Isn't that how the corruption cases came about?
Bowie Thelonius December 12, 2012 at 10:09 PM
Claudine, don't these engineers need to have a NJ Professional Engineer license? If they don't, they should.
Tom December 13, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Majority of the schools are filled with "pay to play" (nepotism) can we start going after all them too. The BOE members are corrupted along with those high paying superintendents that continue to allow unethical things to go on. It should be against the law too, it might not be for money, it is exchange for jobs, support to their kids or family members leaving all the other kids out in the cold. "Free college and scholarship for those who don't even deserve it. It is a public school system that they are receiving money from the tax payers and the state of NJ that we basically pay for too, yet they are only supporting very few kids. Those who are connected one way or another.
George Clark December 14, 2012 at 12:21 AM
lol. tip of the iceberg it would appear. This story seems to asks more questions then it answers.
Claudine Scozzari December 21, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Bowie - "I can't do anything about that problem. It's not my job; it is the job of the human resource professional hired by the firm." As a government contractor/professional services firm, there are monetary requirements supposedly enforced by the State/County/Municipal government. The Government entities throughout the State including the authorities have prequalification requirements. The lack of an engineering college education is an entirely different matter in the industry as a whole. But I am not a human resource professional, so it is not my JOB. Therefore, I can't do anything about it. I am someone who is really tired of reading how non-engineers are managing tax dollars; especially, when none of them have an engineering education. And, after Hurricane Sandy, it was an engineer like Birdsall who designed conservatively so that the Jersey shore still exists.
Claudine Scozzari December 21, 2012 at 01:52 PM
The "pay-to-pay" issue started as an engineering issue; THE SCHOOL DISTRICTS AND THE TEACHERS NEED TO STAY OUT OF THE ENGINEERING MATTERS OF THE STATE. That is the first problem with the "Pay-to-Play" issue. Second problem. who in their right mind including the judges in the matter would allow a non-engineer educated person to manage a flooding problem, as in the matter of Assemblyman Van Pelt from Ocean Township/Waretown, NJ. The details of these cases are mind boggling. And, this is how the government workers being paid with NJ State Tax dollars are running the State.
Claudine Scozzari December 21, 2012 at 01:57 PM
I want to know how the DAG's on the Government coffers allowed this problem to get this far. The DAG's completely used the engineering industry to maximize capacity at the Dept. of Corrections for all of the government workers who created the problems that exist today.
Claudine Scozzari December 21, 2012 at 02:41 PM
The titanic sunk back in 1929. There are no icebergs in NJ; just a lack of policy making decisions out of Trenton as it pertains to Government business. It is the same old; same old. This story is the same story in this State for the past 15 years, as clearly seen with the Asset Management system put in place by the NJDOT. UBS did a wonderful job in creating a terrific Asset Monetization plan that involved all of the State's Assets (aka Property Title to Property Owned by the State). I think all of those engineers working on that plan knew what the assets were. Oh, that's right there were no engineers working on the Asset Management Systems as dictated by federal law.
Claudine Scozzari March 30, 2013 at 01:48 PM
Because the problems BSG were having going through M & A during due diligence weren't enough. When did cash flow become a problem?

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