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Birdsall ordered to pay $1M in penalties related to pay-to-play case

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Birdsall Services Group, the Monmouth County engineering firm that went bankrupt after admitting violating the state’s pay-to-play law, has been ordered to pay $1 million in criminal penalties, according to state Assistant Attorney General Thomas R. Calcagni.

Birdsall was indicted in March and pleaded guilty in June to money laundering and making false representations for government contracts charges filed by the state Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Also charged were seven executives of the firm; those charges are pending, according to the state.

During the sentencing on Friday, the company was ordered to pay two criminal penalties totaling $1 million, the maximum allowed. Birdsall previously had paid the state $2.6 million to settle a civil forfeiture action filed by the attorney general’s office in connection with the criminal case.

According to the attorney general’s office, the plea agreement requires Birdsall “to cooperate fully in the state’s prosecution of the individual defendants. In addition, it is prohibited from working on government contracts in New Jersey for 10 years.”

In June, Birdsall’s assets were sold for $5.6 million to Partner Engineering and Science, which said it planned to retain as many of Birdsall’s 130 New Jersey employees as possible. Torrance, Calif.-based Partner has more than 250 employees in 24 offices nationwide.

“The maximum penalties that must be paid by Birdsall Services Group are in keeping with the scope of the criminal scheme that led to its ruin,” Calcagni said in a statement. “Birdsall made more than half a million dollars in illegal political contributions, while securing millions of dollars a year in public contracts for which it should have been disqualified.”

The indictment charged Birdsall; its largest shareholder and former chief executive, Howard Birdsall; and six other executives and shareholders with conspiring to avoid the restrictions of New Jersey’s pay-to-play law by disguising illegal corporate political contributions as personal contributions of employees of the firm.

Under the alleged scheme, instead of the company 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 made personal political contributions of $300 or less, which don’t have to be reported under state law.

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Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald reports on health care, small business and higher education. She joined NJBIZ in 2008 after a 34-year career at the Star-Ledger and has been reporting on business in New Jersey since 1978. Her email is beth@njbiz.com and she is @bethfitzgerald8 on Twitter.

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