A former Maryland lobbyist was sentenced to four months in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to bribing elected officials in exchange for actions that would benefit his clients.
Matthew Gorman, 44, is the last of eight people to be sentenced in the wide-reaching corruption scheme that federal investigators called “Operation Dry Saloon.” The case involved liquor store owners, lobbyists, former liquor board commissioners and elected officials who paid legislators cash to pass legislation that would lift the ban on Sunday liquor sales in Prince George’s County.
Gorman was a lawyer and lobbyist representing liquor store owners Young Paig and Shin Ja Lee, who funded the payments to then-state legislators William A. Campos and Michael L. Vaughn in exchange for official acts that would advance the legislation. Gorman wrote the initial draft of the Sunday sales bill and made $75,000 in the bribery scheme.
Gorman apologized at his sentencing hearing Monday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md., saying he was ashamed of his actions.
“I chose to embrace the culture of corruption . . . because it was easy, because it was convenient, because it was accessible — and I’m so sincerely sorry for the fallout,” Gorman said.
Gorman received one of the lightest sentences of those charged in the case, but U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis noted that he had testified as a government witness in Vaughn’s trial. Gorman had covertly recorded Vaughn accepting bribes, with some of the video featured at Vaughn’s trial.
Felix Ayala, a Rockville accountant who prosecutors said paid Campos bribes in exchange for county funds earmarked for nonprofit groups, was sentenced Friday to 30 days in federal prison.
Campos was sentenced to 4½ years in prison after pleading guilty to bribery and other charges. Vaughn was sentenced to four years after a jury convicted him of conspiracy and bribery. Both Campos and Vaughn are Democrats who represented Prince George’s County.
Gorman’s crimes stretched from 2013 to 2015, the government said. In addition to conspiring with others to advance the Sunday sales legislation, Gorman admitted to paying more than $8,000 in bribes to Campos to help Gorman’s clients.
In one instance, Gorman asked Campos in March 2013 for a letter of recommendation on behalf of a client seeking a liquor license, according to Gorman’s plea agreement. Campos, who was a Prince George’s County Council member at the time, wrote the letter and Gorman gave him $2,000 in exchange. About six months later, the company that Campos wrote the letter for got its liquor license.
Nearly two years later, in January 2015, a company Gorman was representing was at risk of losing its liquor license because of administrative issues. Gorman again asked Campos to step in, asking the council member to place a call to persuade a member of the liquor board to support the business’s license.
In April 2015, Gorman met Campos, who by then was a state delegate, and gave him an envelope with $700, less than the $1,000 Gorman had promised Campos for making the call on behalf of Gorman’s client. That same month, Gorman paid Campos $1,000 for help passing a law extending liquor sales in Prince George’s County to seven days, court filings state. Paig and Lee, Gorman’s clients, paid Campos $3,000 for that help.
Gorman also paid Campos $5,000 to meet with Montgomery County Council members on behalf of a client at risk of losing a liquor license in May 2015.
Gorman’s attorney, Ty Kelly Cronin, said Gorman was a lawyer who represented his clients with “rigor.” Although it doesn’t excuse his actions, Cronin said, Gorman bribed Campos to help clients who were going to get “steamrolled” before the liquor board and for a client at risk of losing licenses to an administrative lapse that occurred while the client was dealing with a son battling cancer.
“This was not one mistake,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Windom said of Gorman’s recurring crimes. “This was not one thing he did over time.”