A former Prince George's County liquor board commissioner arrested earlier this year on federal bribery charges pleaded guilty in the case Friday afternoon, the seventh of eight people netted in the wide-ranging scandal to admit wrongdoing.
Anuj Sud, 39, admitted to violating the Travel Act, going between Maryland and Washington, to collect cash kickbacks — that prosecutors said he referred to as "wedding gifts" — in exchange for official favors.
Sud's plea leaves only former state delegate Michael Vaughn set to go to trial in the federal investigation authorities dubbed "Operation Dry Saloon."
Earlier this year the former Prince George's County liquor board director, liquor store owners, lobbyists and lawmakers were arrested in the probe. Federal authorities allege liquor store owners paid former state delegates Vaughn and Will Campos, both Democrats representing Prince George's, thousands of dollars in exchange for favorable votes on legislation that would help their businesses.
Sud was not accused in the larger scheme involving the expansion of liquor sales in exchange for cash, but was arrested in a related bribery investigation.
Sud did not speak at the hearing other than to answer "yes" or "no" questions from the judge. His attorney, William Brennan, declined to comment after the hearing in federal court in Greenbelt, but in a letter to the court said his client "is profoundly remorseful for his conduct."
Sud, an attorney, was appointed to the Prince George's liquor board in 2015 and almost immediately began shopping around to sell his votes, according to prosecutors.
"How can I start getting paid?" Sud was accused of asking someone who represented businesses with matters before the liquor board on Sept. 25, 2015.
"Tell your boys you got somebody on the board that can f------ make s--- happen," the government said Sud told the man who turned out to be a confidential source for the FBI. "I can influence the votes now."
About two months later, Sud agreed to vote favorably in two hearings involving the confidential source.
On Dec. 2, 2015, Sud voted to reduce the penalty for a business found in violation of a liquor board summons. About two weeks later, Sud voted in favor of granting a liquor license to another one of the informant's clients.
Sud was paid $1,000 for each vote, court documents state.
A year later, Sud asked the informant for a "wedding gift," which the government said was code for a bribe in exchange for help on liquor board matters. When the informant and Sud talked about helping one of the informant's clients, Sud suggested the informant bring payment for the bribe to an auto repair shop Sud owned as a way to hide the transactions, the government asserts in court filings.
"Actually, you know what I was thinking?" the government states Sud told the informant Nov. 9, 2016, at Sud's gas station and repair shop in Silver Spring. "Any time you want to drop off a gift, bring your car in. Do the oil change and then when you pay, I can just give you a receipt . . . That way it's a legitimate transaction."
Later that month, court files state, the informant gave Sud $1,000 after Sud had voted favorably on a decision affecting one of the informant's clients and the client was "real happy" the informant said before handing over cash.
"Speaking of good," the informant told Sud, according to the recounting in court filings. "Look. I got a little, what's it called, wedding gift for the, uh . . . deal."
Sud faces up to five years in prison at sentencing scheduled for April 5.