Ex-Md. delegate admits to accepting bribes; more officials investigated in corruption probe

GREENBELT, Md. — A former Maryland delegate from Prince George’s County collected an estimated $40,000 worth of bribes in exchange for directing tax-supported grants to certain nonprofit organizations, among other favors, and he even directed those soliciting his help to create fake entities to receive the grant money, according to federal prosecutors.

William A. Campos-Escobar, 42 of Hyattsville, has pleaded guilty to federal bribery and conspiracy charges, according to U.S. Attorney for Maryland Rod Rosenstein’s office, which released details of an unsealed plea deal with Campos on Tuesday.

The charges stem from a multiyear public corruption probe that has also resulted in federal charges against two members of the Prince George’s County liquor board and two local businessmen. Campos and another unnamed state legislator were implicated in the liquor board charges that were filed last week.

But multiple other lawmakers remain under investigation and more charges are likely, Rosenstein said.

Campos, who also served as Prince George’s County councilman for 10 years, apologized to his supporters, friends and family for his actions in a written statement.

“When I was first approached by the government, I immediately acknowledged my wrongdoing and have been trying to make amends ever since,” the statement from Campos reads. “I am relieved that this is finally coming to an end. This process has been torturous, and I have learned so much about life and myself. ”

Campos admitted to accepting cash bribes from numerous individuals in exchange for directing tax-supported grants to nonprofit organizations selected by the individuals. Prosecutors say Campos received as much as $24,000 between 2011 and 2014 from two county businessmen. In exchange, Campos directed $325,000 in county grant funding to organizations controlled by the business owners.

He also accepted several bribes totaling $11,000 from a pair of individuals, one of whom was a business person who was cooperating with investigators, in exchange for funneling grants and setting the groundwork for business deals.

The county provided each council member with $100,000 to allocate to local nonprofit organizations. But there was no oversight for how the money was spent or how the recipients were selected, Rosenstein said.

Campos told the informant that applicants for the grant funding didn’t have to “justify” how the funds would be used. “It’s my money and it’s there,” Campos was quoted as telling the informant in court records. “Get as many churches and I give you ($5,000) each.”

He said the informant would get a cut of the funds going to the nonprofits.

Rosenstein said that in recorded comments, Campos was “cavalier about taxpayer money. He even told people to set up fake nonprofit organizations so that he could direct money to those nonprofits organizations in return for kickbacks.”

Campos also accepted $2,000 cash plus from an undercover FBI investigator posing as a local business person. In exchange, Campos wrote a letter supporting the supposed businessman’s application for a government property management contract, according to the unsealed plea deal.

After the cash exchange in early 2014, the undercover investigator told Campos that he could say no and walk away from the deal. “I’m a mortal man — that’s my problem,” Campos responded, court records say.

He received additional bribes during his tenure on the County Council including $1,000 from the owner of a nightclub in exchange for Campos’ testimony before the liquor board in 2007 and as much as $5,000 from another business owner in exchange from Campos’ help with a zoning issue, court documents say.

The IRS and Prince George’s County police were also involved in the investigation.

“We were part of the investigation because if you violate the public trust in Prince George’s County, we’re going to come after you and we’re going to come after you hard,” said County Executive Rushern Baker.

Campos represented District 2 on the County Council for a decade from 2004 to 2014, when was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates. He resigned his delegate seat in September 2015.

The plea deal was entered earlier this month. Campos faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison for the two charges plus he’ll be required to pay $340,000 in restitution.

NBC4 reporter Tracee Wilkins contributed to this report, and WTOP’s Kate Ryan reported from Annapolis. 

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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