Former Maryland State Del. Michael Vaughn (D-Prince George’s) has been indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with a wide-ranging bribery scheme and the theft of campaign funds to cover his personal bills.
Federal authorities allege Vaughn received more than $10,000 in cash from liquor store owners in exchange for favorable legislation that would expand liquor sales in Prince George’s County or edge out the competitors of those who paid him.
Vaughn had resigned from the legislature in January after news of the federal probe of the local liquor board broke and resulted in the initial arrest of two liquor store owners, the head liquor board inspector and a member of the commission. Vaughn, who served as a delegate from 2003 to 2017, cited health reasons for his resignation.
A judge allowed Vaughn released on his own personal recognizance during his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt Wednesday. Vaughn, 59, arrived at the hearing in a dark pinstripe suit and answered "Yes, sir" when the judge asked questions and informed him of his rights. Vaughn was ordered to avoid contact with victims, witnesses and others charged in the case, along with people who contributed to his campaign since 2012.
His attorney declined comment after the hearing.
Vaughn was indicted on eight counts of wire fraud, conspiracy and bribery in connection with actions that occurred during his time in office between 2012 and 2016.
Federal authorities also accuse Vaughn of illegally shifting money donated to his campaign for his personal use, according to a statement from the government. The allegations involve at least $6,000 in funds, the indictment states.
If convicted, Vaughn faces up to 65 years in prison.
In Annapolis, House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said, “this is a sad day for the Maryland General Assembly. We are sworn to protect the public trust, and if proven, this was an egregious violation of that trust and a violation of criminal law. I’m deeply disappointed that any member of the House would compromise our Democratic process.”
Sen. President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) called the indictment “distressing.”
“It’s before the courts, he’s resigned from the House of Delegates and we’ll just have to see what the courts have to say,” he said.
In January, four others were arrested in connection with the long-running probe by the FBI: David Dae Sok Son, 40, the director of the liquor board in Prince George’s. Anuj Sud, 39, a county liquor board commissioner who resigned; Young Jung Paig, 62, owner of Central Avenue Restaurant & Liquor Store; and Shin Ja Lee, 55, owner of Palmer Liquor Store.
On the day of their arrests, the FBI raided the county liquor board officers and several locations throughout the county.
Federal authorities allege Son served as a middle man, transferring the cash from liquor store owners Paig and Lee to Vaughn.
The indictment against Vaughn, unsealed late Tuesday, alleges that in one instance, Vaughn met Son, Paig and Lee at a restaurant in Bowie. Afterward, Paig got into Vaughn’s car and handed over $4,000, half of which Vaughn deposited into an ATM immediately after the meeting, the indictment states.
Vaughn also accepted bribes as liquor store owners sought legislation that would limit their competitors, the government alleges.
Vaughn had served in the House of Delegates from January 2003. In addition to being the Deputy Majority Whip, he also served on the Economic Matters Committee, which deals with bills that regulate alcohol, as well as banking, economic development, insurance and utilities. The government said Vaughn boasted that his position on the committee would allow him to help amend or kill proposed liquor legislation.
“At the end of the day, [the committee] has final say so... I’m gonna be checking and double checking. Making sure none of this... slip through,” the indictment states.
Vaughn was born in Tuskegee, Ala. He attended DuVal High School in Prince George’s County before receiving a bachelor’s degree from Southern University in Louisiana.
Before being elected to the House, Vaughn worked in banking and finance, according to his official House of Delegates biography. He came under scrutiny for falsely claiming on his campaign website that he played football for the Dallas Cowboys for three years, which he retracted in 2010 after questioning from a Washington City Paper reporter.
He also worked in sales for Marriott and Hilton’s Embassy Row Hotel in Washington. Vaughn owns ADDR Properties, a real estate company in Mitchellville, according to Maryland assessment records.
In a related case, former state Del. William A. Campos (D-Prince George’s) pleaded guilty to funneling government money and performing other officials favors to those who paid him bribes and kickbacks during his time as a county council member.
Federal prosecutors would not detail how Campos is directly involved with the liquor-board investigation in which Vaughn and others were charged.
But in charging affidavits,prosecutors said two elected officials started working as informants in the liquor board investigation to avoid harsh sentencing on other corruption charges. One cooperator is described as a former elected official who took a plea agreement and helped federal agents in the case between June 2014 and July 2015, months before Campos resigned from the state legislature.
Several details in Campos’s plea agreement, such as cash totals, conversations, and promised favors, appear to align with the description of an informant in the charges brought against others.
Josh Hicks and Ovetta Wiggins contributed to this report.