Smoke shop owner pleads guilty in campaign finance case

A smoke-shop owner Wednesday became the third defendant to plead guilty in the campaign finance case that helped derail the congressional campaign of former House Speaker Christopher Donovan, D-Meriden, last year.

Paul Rogers, 40, of Middlebury pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in New Haven to one count of devising a scheme to bribe a public official and one count of making false statements to the Federal Election Commission.

Donovan's former campaign manager and treasurer are charged in connection with what federal authorities say was an attempt to trade $27,500 in campaign donations in return for blocking legislation that would have imposed fees on Rogers' roll-your-own tobacco business.

Rogers

Paul Rogers trailing his lawyer after arraignment last summer. (file photo)

The sources of the donations were hidden by using straw donors.

Federal authorities have not claimed that Donovan knew of the scheme, but the arrests in the months before the Democratic primary in August essentially ended his campaign for a nomination won by Elizabeth Esty, who also won the general election for the open 5th District seat.

Legislation to impose fees on the roll-your-own business, which had been judged exempt from taxes on cigarettes, eventually passed.

David Moffa, the former president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 387, and Ray Soucy, another former union official, already have pleaded guilty. Moffa introduced the smoke-shop owners to Soucy, who knew Donovan and people running his campaign.

Charges are pending against five others, including Donovan's former manager, Joshua Nassi, and finance director, Robert Braddock.

Rogers owns two smoke shops in Waterbury. A partner is a Watebury police detective, George Tirado, who also was charged in the case.

Eight months after the first arrests, the U.S. attorney's office has given no indication if the case would expand beyond the eight men charged.

 

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