Birdsall fined $1 million for secret ‘pay-to-play’ scandal

Birdsall Services Group office

Birdsall Services Group office

STATE — Birdsall Services Group was fined $1 million for secretly making illegal campaign contributions to gain lucrative government contracts.

The criminal fine imposed by Superior Court Judge Wendel E. Daniels in Ocean County is in addition to $2.6 million that Birdsall Services Group agreed to pay in April to settle a civil forfeiture action brought by the state Attorney General’s Office relating to the criminal corruption charges it faced.

The politically connected engineering firm pleaded guilty in June to making illegal campaign contributions earlier this year and admitted to its involvement in a wide ranging criminal pay-to-play scheme that helped garner about 1,850 contracts worth more than $26 million with government entities across the state.

Ed Stier, who was appointed to oversee the company’s bankruptcy and the sale of its assets on behalf of Birdsall’s creditors, sued some of the state’s top criminal attorneys, seeking the repayment of more than $500,000 that went toward the defense of former company executives who have been charged with crimes.

On Aug. 12, Stier filed a second federal suit against 12 former Birdsall executives to seek $34 million, representing the firm’s drop in value as a result of the criminal scheme, plus an additional $1 million paid as improper bonuses to reimburse them for political contributions.

The state Attorney General’s Office alleged that former Birdsall CEO Howard Birdsall and eight others orchestrated a scheme to deliver contributions to politicians who were in a position to award the firm lucrative public contracts. Two other employees have pleaded guilty to related charges.

Because each check was written for $300 or less, campaigns were not required to disclose them to the public. From 2008 to early 2012, records show, Birdsall made more than 1,000 secret contributions worth $1.05 million.

Seven executives who have been charged pleaded not guilty, while two others pleaded guilty as part of deals reached with the Attorney General’s Office.

The company’s assets were sold in June to Partner Engineering and Science Inc., a California engineering company. Stier asked in court papers that money paid to defend former executives be repaid to Birdsall’s bankruptcy estate.

The ex-wife of Philip Angarone Jr. turned him in after she recorded a meeting where the company’s former marketing director described his role in the massive scheme to circumvent laws designed to prevent contractors from essentially buying lucrative public contracts with ‘pay-to-play’ political donations to elected officials.


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