Prince George's County Liquor Board Official Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy, Bribery, and Obstruction of Justice
Greenbelt, Maryland – On October 17, 2017, Prince George’s County Liquor Board official David Dae Sok Son, age 41, of Bowie, Maryland, pleaded guilty to an Information charging him with conspiracy, bribery, and obstruction of justice, in a scheme involving alcoholic beverage licenses in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
The guilty plea was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Stephen M. Schenning; Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Special Agent in Charge Thomas Jankowski of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office; and Chief Henry Stawinski III of the Prince George’s County Police Department.
Son was a Commissioner on the Prince George’s County Board of License Commissioners (“Liquor Board”) from 2005 through 2014. During the 2015 Maryland legislative session, Son served as a liaison for the Prince George’s County Senate delegation. He returned to the Liquor Board later in 2015, as its Director.
As described in the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint and in the plea agreement, Son solicited and facilitated bribes, from lobbyists and business owners, including co-conspirators Young Jung Paig and Shin Ja Lee. The bribe recipients were elected state officials, including then-County Councilman William Alberto Campos-Escobar (a/k/a “Will Campos”) and then-Delegate Michael Vaughn.
For example, during a meeting on April 4, 2014, Son informed an FBI Confidential Human Source (“CHS”) that Campos needed $10,000 to pay an expense related to Campos’s campaign for Maryland State Delegate. Son told the CHS that Son had spoken with Campos about the CHS giving cash to Campos in exchange for Campos arranging for another grant to be awarded to a non-profit organization selected by the CHS.
On or about April 9, 2014, Son met the CHS at a coffee shop in Lanham, Maryland. Son told the CHS that Son had told Campos to “hook [the CHS] up” with the developer of a new business in the County, so that the developer would retain the CHS’s business services. Son explained to the CHS that the business owed Campos, because Campos obtained a tax benefit for the business. Son and the CHS then walked to the coffee shop’s parking lot, where the CHS’s vehicle was located. The CHS then retrieved $3,000 in U.S. currency from the CHS’s vehicle.
On or about April 9, 2014, Son gave Campos the $3,000 in U.S. currency that Son had received from the CHS. Later on April 9, 2014, Campos sent a text message to the CHS that stated, “I owe you big time my man.”
Beginning in 2015, Son solicited and facilitated bribe payments from lobbyists and business owners who were interested in the “Sunday Sales Bill,” which established up to 100 Sunday liquor sales permits in Prince George’s County. The bribes were intended to influence public officials in the performance of their official duties. For example, in 2015, Son had asked Campos to assist in passing the Sunday Sales bill by talking to one of his colleagues about the bill; both subsequently voted in favor of the bill. On April 22, 2015, after the passage of the bill, Son arranged a lunch between Campos, Paig, and Lee. A lobbyist and attorney, Matthew Gorman, also attended. During the lunch, Son told Campos to meet Paig in the men’s bathroom, saying that Paig was “… going to hook you up.” In the men’s bathroom, Paig handed Campos an envelope containing a total of $4,000 cash, which constituted a bribe from Son, Paig, Lee, and Gorman. In addition, on October 19, 2015, Son received a $4,000 bribe payment from a lobbyist for his assistance in ensuring that the lobbyist’s clients received Sunday Sales licenses.
Lee and Paig subsequently talked to Son about getting beneficial legislation introduced related to the Sunday Sales bill and indicated that they would be willing to pay $50,000 to make that happen. Son spoke with Delegate Vaughn, who agreed to introduce legislation. On November 10, 2015, Son arranged for Paig and Lee to meet with Vaughn so they could make a “down payment.” After the meeting, law enforcement observed Paig and Vaughn get into Vaughn’s car, while Lee and Son waited in the parking lot. Shortly after Paig got out of the car, Vaughn drove directly to a bank in the same shopping center. Bank surveillance video shows Vaughn pulling a stack of cash out of his right pocket and handing it to the teller, and then doing the same from his left pocket. Bank records show that Vaughn deposited a total of $4,000.
On December 17, 2016, after Son had been questioned by the FBI, he hand-wrote a letter to another subject of the FBI’s investigation informing the subject that Son had been “taken” by the “Feds” and was “wired” when he last visited the subject. In the letter, Son also listed names of individuals who had “flipped,” or cooperated with the FBI. Son further described devices used by the FBI for body wires and told the subject that the subject should assume meetings with Son were being recorded. Son also laid out means by which the subject and Son could communicate secretly.
If convicted, Son faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy, ten years in prison for bribery, and 20 years in prison for obstruction of justice. U.S. District Court Judge Paula Xinis has scheduled sentencing for January 22, 2018 at 10 a.m. in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.
Acting United States Attorney Stephen M. Schenning commended the FBI, IRS-CI, and Prince George’s County Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Schenning thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas P. Windom, Menaka Kalaskar, Arun G. Rao, and James A. Crowell IV, who prosecuted the case.