Estey Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud

FBIThe FBI’s pay-to-play corruption probe has claimed another former state official, after Gov. Ed Rendell’s former chief of staff admitted to pocketing FBI sting money in court Tuesday.

John Estey pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud for keeping $13,000 of the $20K that FBI agents posing as executives of a FL-based textbook recycling company had given him in April 2011 to pass on to state lawmakers.

Estey, who had been hired as a lobbyist by the federal agents using Textbook Bio-Solutions LLC as a front, said he would distribute the money to three state lawmakers and a leadership caucus, but kept more than half of it for himself.

Later that year, he did end up donating the remaining $7K: $2,500 to then-State Rep. Josh Shapiro, $1K to State Rep. Dwight Evans, $2K to State Sen. Vincent Hughes, $1K to State Sen. Larry Farnese and $500 to State Sen. John Yudichak.

Estey faces a maximum sentence of 20 years and a $250,000 fine, though he worked with the FBI for a period after being caught taking the sting money.

Estey’s case is thought to be related to Rob McCord’s, with the former Treasurer abruptly resigning from his executive position in January 2015 and pleading guilty to two charges of extortion.

McCord also worked with authorities after being nabbed, even wearing an FBI wire before entering his guilty plea.

The FBI also looks to have Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski and former Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer in their sights. Several officials tied to both men have already pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges, including political consultant Mike Fleck, who also wore a wire for the FBI.

On Tuesday, court documents were unsealed showing another guilty plea in the FBI’s corruption crackdown, Jeremy Roebuck of the Inquirer reports.

Matthew McTish, president of Allentown engineering firm McTish, Kunkel & Associates, admitted to contributing thousands of dollars to Pawlowski and Spencer between 2013 and 2015, after they threatened to pull city contracts from his firm, according to the report.

Though it is unclear when the mayors will be formally charged, it is certainly now a foregone conclusion.

18 Responses

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  2. Hey HaHaHa aka Brett Aka Jailbird. This story is about you. Are you going to pay the money back you stole from the elderly.
    Unsanctioned R2 says:
    May 11, 2016 at 4:18 pm
    Hey HaAHA aka Brett look you made the news when Fina arrested and convicted you. It’s nice to know that public sources still have this information. You gonna pay back any of the money you stole.
    Brett Cott
    HARRISBURG –Bonusgate defendent Brett Cott received a sentence of 21 to 60 months on three charges this morning.
    He also received three fines totaling $11,000 and was told to make restitution to the state of $50,000. The sentence was imposed by Dauphin County Judge Richard Lewis, who rejected Mr. Cott’s defense attorny’s plea for probation. Mr. Cott was found guilty on three charges: conflict of interest, theft of services, and conspiracy.
    The office of state Attorney General Tom Corbett had argued for a stiff sentence, claiming Mr. Cott had seriously misused taxpayer dollars in running as many as 20 political campaigns in Western Pennsylvania from 2004 to 2006.
    Mr. Cott’s attorney, Bryan Walk, had claimed that the prosecution was political and said that Mr. Cott was aqcuitted on 39 of 42 charges brought against him. However Judge Lewis said that Mr. Cott’s offenses were serious and deserved time in state prison.
    PDF
    Read the sentencing memo for Brett Cott.
    The judge said Mr. Cott spent most of his time that was paid for on taxpayer dollars “orchestrating and mastermining political activity.” The judge said “public money was used like monopoly money to run campaigns. Some potential candidates were scared off by this taxpayer funded juggernaut. The public was also victimized.”
    He said probation was not an option because that “would demean the seriousness of the crimes.”
    Deputy Attorney General Patrick Blessington said that Mr. Cott was paid salary of $223,000 plus bonuses of over $39,000 from 2004 to 2006 for basically running political campaigns. Mr. Cott is the first of the Bonusgate defendents to be sentenced.
    Reactions to the sentence from prosecutors and the defense differed markedly.
    The stiff sentence “sends a loud and clear message that this kind of activity [illegal use of taxpayers funds for political campaigns] will not be tolerated, and people will pay for their crimes,” said Deputy Attorney General E. Marc Costanzo.
    In a brief submitted to the judge, the state contended that Mr. Cott’s “demeanor” wasn’t appropriate, meaning he hadn’t shown “contrition or remorse” for his illegal actions. He said Mr. Cott’s ongoing defiant attitude and lack of remorse were “appropriate legal factors” to be considered during the sentencing.
    Lawyer Walk, however, said he was shocked and “extremely disappointed” by the severity of the sentence, which could keep Mr. Cott in state prison for up to five years.
    “There are drug dealers and violent offenders who don’t get that much time,” he said. “We didn’t expect this.”
    He said that since Mr. Cott had no previous arrests or convictions, and since the jury had found him not guilty on 39 of the 42 charges that the state brought against him, he should have gotten probation and no jail time.
    Mr. Walk said the judge’s sentencing decision seemed to have been already prepared, even before this morning’s hearing, where the defense attorney spent almost an hour saying what a hard worker and good person Mr. Cott is.
    Mr. Walk said that if two of the original Bonusgate defendants, former House Democratic staffers Mike Manzo and Jeff Foreman — who made a deal to cooperate with the state and testified against Mr. Cott, “don’t get sentences that are more than Mr. Cott’s, then justice is dead.”

  3. I’m tracking your sarcasm. That established, who even is Alam Kennedy Shaffer?

  4. Keep your eye on the ball; Long & Nyquist were John Estey’s “go to” guys.

  5. Cole-

    What if it turns out that AKS is the master-mind behind all the scandals and been secretly running PA politics behind the scenes all these years?

    I think you will owe him an apology for under-estimating him.

  6. This has to be the handy work of Alan Kennedy Shaffer, Esq. he is such a brilliant legal mind.

  7. Estey Needs to go to Jail for the Max 20 Years Estey was soaking the Hershey Trust and Ran in the Most powerful of Power Circles in Pennsylvania . Every organization that Estey got anywhere near should be gone over with a fine tooth Comb that Estey even breathed on . The only thing that undergirds our Government is Faith in our Government . Clearly with all of these government people being charged this is getting worse than North Korea . A serious message must be sent to those in government and in any way connected to government that they better be honest fair above board and transparent in how they handle the peoples business . THROW THE BOOK AT ESTEY NOW

  8. Can someone please explain to me what Estey did wrong. He was a lobbyist who took $20k from his client to make political contributions. He than made $20k in contributions. Where is the crime here?? Anyone with legal experience that can explain this?

  9. Breaking News: another crumb Democrat is indicted (FARNESE). Only the tip of the ICEBERG. MORE TO COME.

  10. Yeah, I wouldn’t see anything suspicious about a contribution from Rendell’s former CoS. I don’t think anything will happen, nor should happen, to the recipients of the money. Although they should probably give it back.

  11. Someone needs to explain this to me. The below lawmakers took donations from Estey. Not from an imaginary Florida company. Not from the FBI. But from Estey. And the money got to Estey from the FBI.

    “Later that year, [Estey] did end up donating the remaining $7K: $2,500 to then-State Rep. Josh Shapiro, $1K to State Rep. Dwight Evans, $2K to State Sen. Vincent Hughes, $1K to State Sen. Larry Farnese and $500 to State Sen. John Yudichak.”

    Not sure how those guys did anything wrong. Unless Estey told them they were illegal donations from out-of-State business — which, of course, they were not, so …………..

    I need a lawyer to explain this. And how these guys did anything wrong.

  12. Did Cynthia Baldwin plead guilty to obstructing justice and perjury yet for her unethical misconduct during the PSU 3 grand jury?

  13. This ain’t stopping at a couple of small-town mayors – not with all those Republican attorneys in the USA offices around here.

  14. I love this:

    “John Estey pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud for keeping $13,000 of the $20K that FBI agents posing as executives of a FL-based textbook recycling company had given him in April 2011 to pass on to state lawmakers.”

    He was free and clear, but couldn’t help himself stealing from the FBI. Brilliant.

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