WASHINGTON – Keith D. Forney, 58, of Clinton, Md., was arraigned today on charges of engaging in corrupt election practices, second-degree fraud, perjury, making campaign contributions in excess of legal limits, and making campaign contributions through other persons, announced U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips, Andrew Vale, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and Kimberly Lappin, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Washington D.C. Field Office.
Forney pled not guilty in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and remains free on personal recognizance. He also recently pled not guilty at his arraignments in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on federal charges in two indictments returned against him there. In the federal cases, Forney is accused of participating in a contract fraud scheme against the Maryland Administrative Office of the Courts and filing fraudulent federal tax returns.
In the Superior Court case, Forney was indicted on Aug. 16, 2017, on two counts of engaging in corrupt election practices; three counts of second-degree fraud; two counts of perjury, three counts of exceeding campaign contribution limitations, and eight counts of making campaign contributions through other persons.
According to the Superior Court indictment, Forney claimed for years that a rental property he owned in the District of Columbia was his sole primary residence, when he actually was residing in Clinton, Md. Forney also filed federal and District of Columbia tax returns using the D.C. address. Additionally, he obtained a District of Columbia driver’s license and registered as a D.C. voter while having a license and being registered to vote in Maryland. By documenting that he resided in the District of Columbia, Forney’s construction business, Forney Enterprises, Inc., (FEI) could qualify as a resident owned business in the District of Columbia and receive preferences in bidding on District of Columbia government contracts. The company got those designations in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016.
Additionally, under District of Columbia law, individuals may not contribute more than $1,000 in support of a candidate for an at-Large seat on the Council of the District of Columbia and may not contribute more than $500 for a candidate seeking a ward seat. Individuals also may not make or cause contributions to made in the name of others. According to the indictment, Forney violated those laws with contributions to three candidates in the 2012 election.
Both of the federal indictments were returned on Aug. 10, 2017.
In one federal case, Forney and a co-defendant, Riad M. Sleit, were indicted on two counts of fraud stemming from an alleged scheme involving Forney’s company, FEI, and payments it received as a minority business enterprise. Forney was also charged with two counts of money laundering.
The scheme allegedly involved a series of contracts awarded by the Maryland Administrative Office of the Courts to Sharp Business Systems (SBS) for work on copiers throughout the state’s court system. Under contracts issued in 2009, 2010, and 2011, SBS was to meet a requirement that 20 percent of its sub-contracting work be performed by a minority business enterprise, which, in this case, was to be FEI. Sleit was the president of the metropolitan Washington, D.C. branch of SBS and was involved in the contract, the indictment alleges.
However, according to the indictment, FEI never performed any work or provided any services. Forney, Sleit, and an SBS consultant, John N. Vassos, caused SBS to pay $689,800 to FEI from 2009 to 2013 for its purported work. Forney then turned over the money that FEI received from SBS to Vassos.
In addition to his work at FEI, Forney and a business partner owned Stadium Club, an establishment in Southeast Washington. In May 2010, according to the indictment, Vassos provided approximately $2 million to Forney and his partner to finance the purchase of the property where Stadium Club was located. Additionally, from 2011 until 2014, Vassos loaned hundreds of thousands of dollars to Forney and his partner.
Sleit, 60, of Sarasota, Fla., has entered a not guilty plea. Vassos, 55, of Bethesda, Md., pled guilty in June 2017 to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, one count of tax fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He is awaiting sentencing.
In the other federal case, Forney was indicted on two counts of tax fraud for allegedly under-reporting his income on federal income tax returns for the 2009 and 2010 calendar years.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws and every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.
The FBI’s Washington Field Office and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Washington D.C. Field Office are investigating the cases. The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony Saler and Michael Marando. Assistance has been provided by Paralegal Specialists C. Rosalind Pressley, Toni Anne Donato, Aisha Keys, and Jessica Mundi; Financial Analyst Bryan J. Snitselaar; Litigation Technology Specialist Kimberly Smith; and former Criminal Investigators Juan Juarez and Stephen Cohen, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.