State se­na­tor could get 20 years in prison

Oaks pleaded not guilty to hon­est ser­vices wire fraud charges in fed­eral court

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY BRIAN WITTE

AN­NAPO­LIS | A Mary­land state se­na­tor ac­cepted il­le­gal pay­ments in ex­change for us­ing his po­si­tion to fa­cil­i­tate busi­ness deals, us­ing the word “lol­lipop” as code for ev­ery $1,000 he ex­pected to col­lect, U.S. pros­e­cu­tors said Fri­day.

Sen. Nathaniel Oaks, a 70-year-old Demo­crat who lost his House seat in 1989 af­ter be­ing con­victed of theft and mis­con­duct charges only to be re-elected again in 1994, has been charged with hon­est ser­vices wire fraud. The charge stems from an in­ves­ti­ga­tion dat­ing back to 2015, when Mr. Oaks was a mem­ber of the House rep­re­sent­ing a dis­trict in Bal­ti­more.

Mr. Oaks en­tered a fed­eral court­room in Bal­ti­more in hand­cuffs and pleaded not guilty. He was re­leased on his own re­cog­ni­zance. Stu­art Simms, Mr. Oaks’ lawyer, did not re­turn a call seek­ing com­ment. Mr. Oaks faces up to 20 years in prison. Mr. Oaks was paid $10,300 for his help with de­vel­op­ment and busi­ness-re­lated op­por­tu­ni­ties, an af­fi­davit said. One of them was a U.S. De­part­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment project that a con­fi­den­tial FBI source ex­pressed in­ter­est in. Au­thor­i­ties say Mr. Oaks was paid an­other $5,000 for fil­ing a bond bill in the leg­is­la­ture.

The af­fi­davit says a per­son co­op­er­at­ing with in­ves­ti­ga­tors in­tro­duced Mr. Oaks in Septem­ber 2015 to an FBI con­fi­den­tial source, who por­trayed him­self as an out-of-town busi­ness­man in­ter­ested in ob­tain­ing con­tracts in Bal­ti­more through a mi­nor­ity-owned busi­ness.

The com­pany is a real busi­ness op­er­ated by a dif­fer­ent co­op­er­at­ing de­fen­dant who is help­ing the FBI. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­volved telephone and in-per­son con­ver­sa­tions with Mr. Oaks when de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties were dis­cussed.

The two talked about prop­er­ties for sale in Bal­ti­more that Mr. Oaks had shown the source as po­ten­tial sites for a prospec­tive U.S. De­part­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment project.

The source told Mr. Oaks he wanted to get the prop­er­ties for “pen­nies on the dol­lar,” and that he hoped to get fi­nan­cial sup­port from the city. In a telephone call, Mr. Oaks said he could help.

“I might need to be the one in the back­ground to help ah, help ah, with my foot ah, not nec­es­sar­ily on their neck, but around their head some kind of way,” Mr. Oaks said, ac­cord­ing to the af­fi­davit.

The fol­low­ing year, Mr. Oaks and the con­fi­den­tial source dis­cussed pay­ing the law­maker for his as­sis­tance, the af­fi­davit said. Mr. Oaks al­legedly sent two let­ters on his of­fi­cial let­ter­head sup­port­ing the HUD project that the source told Mr. Oaks he was in­ter­ested in.

The af­fi­davit de­scribes Mr. Oaks as be­ing care­ful not to openly talk about pay­ments. Dur­ing an April 2016 meet­ing when the two dis­cussed ways Mr. Oaks could be of help, Mr. Oaks placed a lol­lipop in his mouth. The source then held up five fin­gers to sig­nify a $5,000 pay­ment.

“In re­sponse, Mr. Oaks shook his head from side to side and then made an up­ward mo­tion with his thumb,” the af­fi­davit said.

When the co­op­er­at­ing source later asked Mr. Oaks how much he should be paid for fil­ing a $250,000 bond bill for a project, he asked the law­maker: “How many lol­lipops should I bring,” a ques­tion Mr. Oaks avoided an­swer­ing di­rectly, say­ing he had faith in him.

The af­fi­davit says the source and Mr. Oaks had es­tab­lished the word “lol­lipop” as a code word for $1,000, stem­ming from the time he put a Toot­sie Pop in his mouth to halt open dis­cus­sion of mon­e­tary amounts.

Mr. Oaks rep­re­sented Bal­ti­more in the House from 1983 un­til early 1989. In 1988, he was con­victed of theft and mis­con­duct in of­fice charges for steal­ing thou­sands of dol­lars from his re-elec­tion fund. He re­ceived a five-year sus­pended sen­tence and lost his House seat as a re­sult.

But in 1994, Mr. Oaks was re-elected to the House, where he served un­til Fe­bru­ary, when he was ap­pointed to re­place a se­na­tor who re­tired.

Mary­land’s leg­is­la­ture has been marked by scan­dal from the very start of this year’s 90-day ses­sion.

Gary Brown, a Demo­crat, was in­dicted by state pros­e­cu­tors in Jan­uary on charges of mak­ing il­le­gal cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions — one day be­fore he was sched­uled to be sworn in as a Bal­ti­more del­e­gate.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

State Se­na­tor Nathaniel Oaks pleaded not guilty to hon­est ser­vices wire fraud charges. In 1989, Mr. Oaks was con­victed of theft and mis­con­duct charges.

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