Lobbyist Bruce Bereano to Appeal Lost Bid to Overturn Fraud Conviction
Maryland lobbyist Bruce Bereano, an Annapolis fixture despite his 1994 fraud convictions in connection with his lobbying activities, on Feb. 28 lost his bid to erase his federal criminal record. Neither U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein nor Bereano’s lawyers, Timothy Maloney and Matthew Bryant, would comment on the case, which Bereano intends to appeal to the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, according to the docket.
The case, filed on April 12, 2011 , attempted to clear Bereano’s name in light of a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Skilling v. United States, which overturned the provision of the federal mail-fraud statute that Bereano claimed was the basis of his prosecution. That provision made it a crime to deprive the public of “honest services,” a broad concept in which a fiduciary trust is broken.
The 1994 criminal case charged Bereano with stealing his clients’ money by falsely billing them for “legislative services” and diverting the resulting revenues to politicians via masked contributions from his political-action committee. In 1998, after his attempts to appeal the convictions failed, he received a sentence of five months of incarceration, five months of home detention, and a $30,000 fine. The convictions also resulted in his disbarment.
In declining to overturn the convictions, U.S. District judge William Nickerson wrote in his 13-page opinion that, after pouring through the record in the 1994 case, he came to the conclusion that the honest-services statute was not “solely or primarily” the crux of the prosecutors’ case before the jury. Instead, Nickerson found that, while the government argued that Bereano “violated his clients’ trust, it equally argued that Bereano committed pecuniary fraud” – which Skilling did not overturn – “by taking money that he was not authorized to take.”
Nickerson emphasized a point made by prosecutors during their closing arguments before the jury in 1994. “The Government even analogized a telephone company defrauding its customers of millions of dollars by sending a million customers a bill with an additional dollar billed,” Nickerson wrote, “to Bereano defrauding his clients of several thousand dollars by adding 150 dollars, an amount no client would question, to a few clients’ bills. This simple analogy clearly relied on a theory of pecuniary fraud, not honest services fraud.”