The Washington Post

Ex-liquor board chief gets 5-year sentence


David Son was the linchpin. He facilitate­d the meetings, he supervised the cash drops, and he set up the votes. Without him, prosecutor­s say, there wouldn’t have been a cash-for-votes scheme that yet again put Prince George’s County in the center of a corruption scandal.

At his sentencing hearing in federal court Thursday, the former director of the Prince George’s County liquor board owned up to his wrongdoing­s — including upending the ongoing investigat­ion by tipping off others being scrutinize­d by the FBI — saying his actions were egregious and embarrassi­ng.

“I knew I messed up in a huge way,” said Son, before a judge sentenced him to five years in prison for a bribery scheme that involved payoffs to politician­s in exchange for help with legislatio­n that would expand liquor sales in the county.

Son, 42, of Bowie, pleaded guilty to bribery, conspiracy and obstructio­n of justice last year. In addition to facilitati­ng bribes to elected officials, Son also skimmed more than $86,000 in payments for himself over about five years starting in 2012.

Seven others have pleaded guilty or were convicted in the federal probe, including former Prince George’s County Council member and Maryland delegate William A. Campos (D) and former delegate Michael L. Vaughn (D).

“He brings in the buyers, he brings in the sellers,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Windom said of Son. “There’s no cash for votes without Mr. Son.”

Son was the reason the conspiracy started, but he also was eventually why the government’s investigat­ion into the widereachi­ng scheme ended, prosecutor­s said.

Son had initially agreed to work as a government informant after the FBI confronted him with his wrongdoing. But the investigat­ion ended abruptly after he tipped off people being investigat­ed about the probe, including one person who fled the country and has escaped prosecutio­n, the government said.

Son wrote a letter to an investigat­ive target, warning the person he had been “taken” by the “Feds” and was “wired,” according to his plea agreement.

Though Son received the stiffest sentence so far of the eight people arrested in what federal investigat­ors called “Operation Dry Saloon,” it was a year short of the six-year sentencing the government had requested.

Son spent nearly 10 minutes in court talking about his work at a service station, moonlighti­ng as a Lyft driver, going to church and volunteeri­ng as a way to make a difference borne of his remorse. He also talked about how he went into his family’s garage and stepped into his car in an attempt to take his own life after his arrest, but stopped when he heard his newborn daughter’s cries.

“I feel this pain every day,” Son said. “I have nightmares about this every day.”

U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis said Son’s crimes were in many ways the most severe of those in the broad investigat­ion, but Son’s transforma­tion after his arrest has also been the most dramatic. She praised Son for taking ownership of his serious offenses instead of minimizing them as actions that were “foolish” or a “mistake.”

The crimes of “others weren’t as egregious,” Xinis said to Son, “but neither was their acceptance” of what they had done when it came to explain themselves at sentencing.

Son’s attorney, Edward T. Kang, said he respects the court’s sentence.

“As demonstrat­ed at today’s hearing, Mr. Son has fully accepted responsibi­lity for his conduct,” Kang said. “He looks forward to continuing his path towards rehabilita­tion and returning to being a productive member of society.”

In the related cases, a jury convicted Vaughn of conspiracy and bribery in March for taking more than $100,000 from liquor store owners in exchange for votes on legislatio­n to expand Sunday liquor sales.

Campos was sentenced to 41/ years in prison for taking

2 more than $40,000 in kickbacks.

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