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The price of a corruption conviction

A former Maryland politician recently underwent sentencing in a federal courthouse after entering a guilty plea on two counts of felony fraud.

The conviction is the latest in a long line of cases in which Maryland public officials have received sentences for kickbacks and bribes.

What happened

The case involved former state senator Nathaniel T. Oaks who admitted to having taken $15,300 from an individual who was an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The informant was posing as a developer and prevailed upon Oaks to participate in a plan to defraud the federal government.

Further issues

Oaks met with the FBI informant over dinner and agreed to craft a bond bill that would aid the development of what was actually a nonexistent Baltimore housing project. In so doing, Oaks would be complicit in defrauding the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Toward the end of the 2017 General Assembly session, he faced charges of nine counts of bribery and fraud. However, more trouble was coming his way. Oaks was also charged with obstruction of justice: Prosecutors alleged that he tipped off the target of an FBI investigation.

Consequences

Federal crimes are handled in a much different way from state crimes. For example, there are congressionally mandated sentencing guidelines for federal crimes. Whether it is some type of fraud, corruption, embezzlement or robbery, the cases are more complex. The sting operation with Nathaniel Oaks began in 2015. In September of 2018, he will begin a prison sentence of three-and-a-half years-that could have been eight to 10 years according to federal guidelines-and pay a fine of $30,000. Upon discharge from prison, he will also face three years of supervised release. By the time he has completed all the penalties associated with his conviction for fraud, the former state senator will be 78 years old.

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