Connecticut political staffer gets year in prison for kickback scheme

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 27, 2015 4:35 PM

By Richard Weizel

MILFORD, Conn. (Reuters) - A former Connecticut legislative staffer was sentenced on Thursday to a year and a day in federal prison for using his role administering a state program intended to prevent political corruption to generate $117,000 in kickbacks.

Republican George Gallo, 47, pleaded guilty in April to using his position as chief of staff to the former state house minority leader to steer first-time political candidates receiving public campaign grants to a Florida direct-mail company in return for 10 percent of the revenue it collected.

The law providing those grants, known as the Citizens Election Program (CEP), was passed a decade ago in an effort to provide political newcomers with advice and money to allow them to spend less of their time trying to generate contributions.

"While some saw the CEP as a way to clean up elections, Mr. Gallo saw it as a personal money maker," Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Mattei wrote in a memo ahead of sentencing. "Mr. Gallo lied to candidates and others about his financial arrangement and, as a result, publicly funded candidates paid 10 percent more than the Florida mail vendor would have otherwise charged."

Prosecutors said those funds went into Gallo's pockets.

Defense lawyer Hubert Santos asked U.S. District Judge Vanessa Bryant to spare Gallo any prison time, urging probation. Gallo previously pleaded guilty to mail fraud.

"Mr. Gallo was dishonest, and he has taken responsibility for his actions," Santos wrote in a memo to Bryant. "However, a complete review of Mr. Gallo's life reveals a man for whom this action is entirely out of character." 

When initially confronted by the FBI, Gallo denied steering candidates to any particular direct mail company in return for financial benefit, according to court papers. He later admitted he had, but said he did not know it was illegal because he previously collected "commissions" as a private campaign consultant.

Gallo resigned in February 2014 after the investigation became public.

(Editing by Scott Malone and Sandra Maler)