GREENBELT, Md. - Federal prosecutors announced Tuesday that former Maryland Delegate and Prince George’s County Councilman William Alberto Campos-Escobar has pleaded guilty to federal charges for taking bribes. In a statement, prosecutors said Campos, 42, entered his plea on January 5, and it was unsealed today.
Campos is from Hyattsville and was elected to the Prince George's County Council in 2004 representing District 2. He served on the council until 2014, when he was elected as a delegate to the Maryland General Assembly. He resigned on September 10, 2015.
While Campos served as County Councilman, Prince George’s County allowed each council member to award $100,000 in grant funds to non-profit service organizations of their choice.
His plea agreement says Campos "conspired to solicit and accept bribes in exchange for favorable official actions."
Campos will be required to forfeit and pay restitution of at least $340,000. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy, and a maximum of 10 years in prison for bribery. His sentencing is scheduled for April 10, 2017.
Rosenstein confirmed Tuesday that the FBI took their bribery investigation public after David Son, the director of the Prince George’s County Liquor Board, began tipping off targets of the probe. The FBI had Son under wiretap surveillance for as long as two and a half years. He is now under 24-hour home detention after appearing in federal court in Greenbelt on Monday.
Rosenstein said during the course of that investigation, they learned Campos was using the $100,000 in grant funds in order to enrich himself.
"Prince George's County allows each county council member to have at full discretion over how up to a $100,000 in funding is distributed to charitable organizations,” said Rosenstein. “It was at the discretion of the county council members as to where that money would be spent and Mr. Campos’ favorite charity was himself.”
U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said the investigation into corruption in Prince George’s County is far from over as there are multiple elected officials and others currently under investigation.
“There are other elected officials who are within the scope of our ongoing investigation,” said Rosenstein.
After the plea was announced, Campos issued the following statement Tuesday afternoon:
"Dear friends, it is with great sadness and embarrassment that I deliver this message. I have been under Federal investigation for bribery and conspiracy and I have pleaded guilty to these charges. The investigation has been going on for years now. When I was first approached by the government, I immediately acknowledged my wrongdoing and have been trying to make amends ever since.
I truly apologize to all of you, my friends and supporters, and to my family. I admitted my transgression from day one. I have not been answering any inquiries in the last few days due to ongoing investigation. As embarrassing and devastating as this may be, I own up to my mistakes. While I have never been shy about speaking to the media, on the advice of my counsel I am constrained not to comment further. I beg for your understanding.
As strange as this may sound, 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. I thank God for the lesson that he has taught me and will continue to teach me. It has definitely made me into a better person and it has humbled me to a level that I needed to reach for my own personal growth. I definitely strayed and I thank God for setting me straight.
Please pray for everyone who will be directly and indirectly affected by all of this. Having gone through it myself, I know what lies ahead for many others and I will ask God to guide them through this as he has guided and blessed me."
The statement goes on to say, "Once again, my sincerest apologies to all of you; I admit to my failings. I only ask for your prayers during this very difficult time. I believe ultimate justice is with divine grace."
Prosecutors announced charges last week against two Prince George's County liquor board officials and two business owners in a bribery scheme. At that time, they said two Maryland lawmakers, including one who is now out of office, were expected to be charged.
The plea agreement outlines the following timeline in the investigation:
- On December 9, 2012, Campos and another suspect met with a cooperating witness to discuss moving the cooperator’s business to the County.
- They met again on December 21, 2012, and the cooperator gave Campos an envelope with $3,000 in cash. Campos told the cooperator to find a non-profit organization (NPO), and Campos would arrange a grant that the NPO could share with the cooperator.
- On February 6, 2013, the cooperator received a check for $5,000, made out to the NPO, with a note that the grant represented funds from District 2.
- On July 12, 2013, Campos and the other suspect met with the cooperator to discuss other NPOs that Campos could use to funnel County grant funds to the source. Campos said that he was going on vacation and “could use an advance for my trip.”
- On July 22, 2013, the cooperator called Campos and proposed meeting to give Campos information about the NPOs the cooperator had lined up to receive County grant funds. The cooperator said that he also wanted to “take care” of Campos before his trip.
- At a meeting on July 25, 2013, the cooperator gave Campos $3,000 in cash.
- On November 15, 2013, an undercover FBI employee (UCE) picked up a check for $5,000 in County grant funds made out to the UCE’s NPO. The UCE posed as a businessman who owned a property management company and wanted to expand his business into the County and the surrounding area.
- Campos subsequently asked the UCE to make a $2,000 campaign contribution to the another candidate’s campaign.
- On January 7, 2014, at Campos’ request, the UCE attended a political fundraiser for the candidate. During the fundraiser, Campos asked the UCE to increase the contribution to $4,000. The UCE agreed to make a $2,000 contribution at the fundraiser and pay an additional $2,000 if Campos would support the UCE’s company obtaining a property management contract with a housing authority outside Maryland. Campos agreed.
- On January 28, 2014, the UCE sent Campos a draft letter of support. Campos forwarded the letter to a County employee with instructions to put the letter on official County letterhead and send it back to the UCE, who received the letter by email that same day.
- On February 4, 2014, Campos and UCE met in Alexandria, Virginia, and the UCE gave Campos $2,000 in cash. Later, Campos and UCE had the following conversation:
Campos: I told you, you were a bad influence. [laughs]
UCE: Oh, man. You can always say no. You say no to me right now. You say no, you
Campos: I’m a mortal man – that’s the problem.
- At a meeting on April 4, 2014, the other suspect told the cooperator that Campos needed $10,000 to pay a campaign-related expense, and that Campos wanted the cooperator to pay in exchange for Campos arranging another grant to an NPO selected by the cooperator.
- On April 9, 2014, the other suspect told the cooperator that Campos wanted to “hook the source up” with the developer of a new business in the County that would retain the cooperator’s services. The other suspect stated that the business owed Campos because Campos had obtained a tax benefit for the business. The cooperator gave the other suspect $3,000 in cash for Campos, which the other suspect gave to Campos later that day. At a meeting the next day, Campos agreed to provide money to the cooperator through an NPO associated with the UCE. Campos also said he was meeting with the developer and would tell the developer that Campos wanted the developer to work with the cooperator.
- On April 17, 2014, the UCE gave Campos another $2,000 in cash.
- Campos also admitted that he received bribe payments from numerous other individuals. For example, from 2001 through 2014, Campos received between $21,000 and $24,000 from two County business owners in exchange for giving approximately $325,000 in County grant money to entities controlled by those business owners
Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker said in a statement on Campos' guilty plea:
“I am very upset and deeply disappointed to learn that Former Councilman and State Delegate Will Campos was involved in this situation. When a public official raises his or her hand and pledges to uphold the Prince George’s County Charter or the Maryland Constitution, they are committing to live by a very high standard of trust and integrity.
"Since 2010, my administration has worked to restore confidence in the Government through the implementation of ethics reform, enhanced oversight, and whistleblower protection through our Office of Ethics and Accountability. I refuse to let today’s developments set us back and tarnish the reputation that this County has worked so hard to rebuild over the last six years. This is why we will continue to work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, and the Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD) on this matter as they investigate this case.”
Prince George’s County Council chair Derrick Davis issued a statement regarding the recent arrests:
"The Prince George’s County Council is deeply concerned about the troubling news that continues to unfold following arrests made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the raid last week of the offices of the Prince George’s County Board of License Commissioners.
"Any allegation of illegal behavior by public servants is unacceptable and disappointing, and the County Council remains committed to working to ensure that every aspect of County Government operates ethically and with a zero tolerance for corruption of any kind.
"The citizens of Prince George’s County deserve government they can trust and officials that operate with the utmost integrity."