Ex-Md. Senator Accused of Corruption, Fraud

By Eric Rich
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 20, 2005

Former Maryland state senator Thomas L. Bromwell, once one of the most powerful figures in Annapolis, was indicted on federal corruption and fraud charges yesterday, accused of wielding his influence to benefit a prominent builder in exchange for concealed payments and other favors.

A grand jury named the Baltimore Democrat, who left the Senate in 2002 to head a state agency, and his wife, Mary Pat, along with W. David Stoffregen, a former president and chief executive of the construction company Poole and Kent, in a 30-count racketeering indictment that alleges a six-year conspiracy ending in 2004.

Bromwell's attorneys maintained the couple's innocence yesterday.

The long-expected indictment outlines one of the most wide-ranging public corruption cases in Maryland in many years. Its claims of bribery and extortion recall the culture of cozy relationships and compromised ethics that made the state synonymous with political corruption in the 1960s and 1970s.

At the center is Bromwell, 56, a former tavern owner elected to the Senate in 1983. He rose to the powerful position of Finance Committee chairman and staged a daring but failed campaign to dislodge the Senate's longtime president, Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), in the final days of 2000.

According to the indictment, Bromwell's ability to deliver favors to Poole and Kent was considered so valuable that Stoffregen persuaded him to abandon his announced plans to retire from the Senate shortly before the coup attempt. Bromwell remained in the legislature at Stoffregen's request and, in exchange, received $192,923 disguised as salary paid to his wife for a no-show job, the indictment says.

Bromwell's attorneys said that a "Republican-controlled Department of Justice" was determined to indict him, regardless of the case's merits. "Tommy Bromwell is a proud and honest public servant and feels certain that he and his wife will ultimately be exonerated," attorneys Robert B. Schulman and Joshua R. Treem said in a statement.

U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said the indictment alleges "a serious abuse of public office for private financial gain." He dismissed the notion that the investigation was politically motivated. "I'm satisfied the investigation would have been conducted in the same way regardless of Bromwell's political affiliation," Rosenstein said.

Two other construction industry executives linked to the probe -- Michael C. Forti, a former executive with Poole and Kent, and his wife, Geraldine E. Forti, owner of the company Namco Services Corp. -- have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with authorities. It was Michael Forti who introduced Bromwell to Stoffregen in 1996, the indictment says.

Their relationship grew, it says, and Bromwell began using his power to pressure and influence people inside and outside government in ways that benefited Poole and Kent.

In 1999, it says, Bromwell helped Poole and Kent win a $9.7 million contract on a hotel being built at Baltimore's Inner Harbor by developer and political financier John Paterakis Sr. That contract had been awarded to another firm, a lower bidder, the indictment says.

The next year, it says, he intervened with officials at the University of Maryland Medical System, an institution whose financing he influenced. Bromwell pressured "high-ranking" officials there to give Poole and Kent a $13 million subcontract on a hospital construction project in Baltimore, the indictment says. In that case also, another company consistently made lower bids, it says.

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