A Bradley Beach woman is the second employee of Birdsall Engineering to plead guilty to a scheme that skirted the state's Pay-to-Play Act, officials said.
The woman disguised illegal corporate political contributions as personal contributions of employees of the firm, a large Monmouth County-based engineering firm that in the past has held contracts for Belmar, Toms River and elsewhere, according to state Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa's office.
The scheme allegedly allowed the firm to fraudulently avoid the restrictions of New Jersey’s Pay-to-Play Act, said the state attorney general in a news release today.
Eileen Kufahl, 48, of Bradley Beach, pleaded guilty Feb. 12 to making prohibited corporation contributions through employees, a fourth-degree charge.
Kufahl is the second employee of Birdsall to plead guilty. The first was Philip Angarone, 40, of Mercer County, the former marketing director for Birdsall Services Group.
A third employee, former Executive Vice President Thomas Rospos, of Belmar, faces a pending indictment in the case.
Joseph Hayden, Attorney for Birdsall Service Group, said the new leadership at the company is fully cooperating.Bridsall has a new CEO, Hayden pointed out.
“The allegations outlined by the Attorney General’s charges all occurred under previous management at Birdsall Services Group and have all been fully addressed by the new leadership of the company," Hayden said. "We have been fully cooperating with the Attorney General’s Office throughout the course of this investigation and the company’s leadership has taken swift action to address the matter which has resulted in a new CEO, significant personnel changes, and the hiring of former New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice James Zazzali, who will oversee the newly established internal processes to ensure complete compliance going forward.”
Angarone admitted in court in November that he took part in the scheme, pleading guilty to third-degree tampering with public records or information and fourth-degree prohibited corporation contributions through employees. He faces up to 364 days in jail and a term of probation, according to the attorney general's office.
In addition to the two employees who have pleaded guilty, a third employee, former Executive Vice President Thomas Rospos, faces a pending indictment in the case.
Kufahl's plea agreement, submitted under Superior Court Judge Wendel E. Daniels in Ocean County, requires her to forfeit $17,119. According to attorney general's office, that amount is the total of the political contributions that she made under the scheme, which were allegedly reimbursed to her by Rospos. The state will recommend that Kufahl be sentenced to a term of probation.
"She must cooperate fully and testify truthfully in the ongoing investigation and any resulting prosecutions," according to the attorney general's office.
Deputy Attorney General Anthony A. Picione, Deputy Chief of the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, and Deputy Attorney General Victor R. Salgado took the guilty plea from Kufahl. Judge Daniels scheduled sentencing for Kufahl for June 7.
Rospos, 61, has charges pending: second-degree charges of conspiracy, making false representations for government contracts, misconduct by a corporate official, and money laundering, as well as various third- and fourth-degree charges. He was indicted on Dec. 11.
The case is being investigated for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau by Deputy Attorney General Picione, Deputy Attorney General Salgado, Detective Kiersten Pentony, Detective Edward Augustyn and Detective Melissa Calkin.
According to the attorney general's office:
Under the scheme to which Kuhfahl and Angarone admitted, instead of Birdsall Services Group (BSG) making corporate political contributions to campaigns and political organizations that would disqualify it from public contracts awarded by certain government agencies, shareholders and employees of the firm would make personal political contributions of $300 or less, which are deemed unreportable. Multiple personal checks would be bundled together at BSG and sent to the appropriate campaign or political organization. Shareholders and employees would then be illegally reimbursed by BSG in the form of added bonus payments – or, in the case of Kufahl, would allegedly be reimbursed by Rospos, who was reimbursed by the firm – and the firm would falsely omit the illegally reimbursed contributions in documents filed with the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) and with government agencies that awarded the firm engineering services contracts.
The state investigation revealed that between January 2008 and May 2012, Rospos allegedly made hundreds of purported personal contributions to campaigns and political organizations across the state, both Republican and Democratic, which were illegally reimbursed by BSG. His contributions totaled in excess of $150,000.