Brothers Indicted in Investigation of Defense Contractor
BALTIMORE (AP) _ Maryland’s most prominent political family has been stung by federal indictments alleging that two brothers, one a state senator and the other a former state senator, took money to influence a congressional investigation headed by their uncle.
Thursday’s indictments accuse former state Sen. Clarence Mitchell III and the brother who replaced him, Sen. Michael Mitchell, of taking money from the embattled New York defense contractor Wedtech Corp.
The company was being investigated by the House Committee on Small Business, headed until January by the brothers’ uncle, former Rep. Parren Mitchell, D-Md.
Federal prosecutors said the brothers did nothing to impede the inquiry and did not talk to their uncle about it. But Wedtech officials apparently didn’t know that and thought they would try to influence their uncle, prosecutors said.
U.S. Attorney Breckinridge Willcox emphasized Thursday that Parren Mitchell, who retired in January after eight terms in the House, is not under investigation.
Parren Mitchell declined comment. He has said repeatedly he did not know about his nephews’ ties to Wedtech until reports about them surfaced in October 1986.
Abbey Lowell, the brothers’ attorney, said his clients denied the charges.
Wedtech, which has filed for bankruptcy, is being investigated by state and federal prosecutors in New York for alleged payments it made to prominent political figures to secure $494 million in no-bid military contracts.
Four former executives of Wedtech have admitted to bribery and grand larceny in plea bargain arrangements under which they agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Prosecutors charge that Wedtech paid $110,000 to Michael Mitchell’s Baltimore law firm from October 1984 to March 1985. Clarence Mitchell got $25,000 of that amount, the indictment said. A Wedtech attorney has said the money was meant to pay Michael Mitchell to locate contracts for the company.
In Washington earlier Thursday, Clarence Mitchell said leaks about the investigation were politically motivated, costing him his bid for his uncle’s House seat. He lost in the Democratic primary last September.
Willcox, who announced the indictments, dismissed the allegation. ″Frankly, I don’t care what political persuasion the defendants are,″ Willcox said.
In addition to the Wedtech-related indictments, Clarence Mitchell was indicted Thursday on charges of failure to file federal income tax returns, submitting false documents to the Veterans Administration, trying to obstruct a federal grand jury investigation into an alleged drug kingpin and submitting false legislative expense vouchers.
In addition to influence-peddling, Michael Mitchell is accused of paying more than $30,000 to an Iowa consultant for steering Wedtech to his law firm.
On Wednesday, Stanley Simon, former president of the New York City borough of the Bronx, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of extorting $183,000 from Wedtech. Simon said he was innocent.