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.”