Two brokers are found innocent in bribery case



Nine people have been charged in a yearlong political scandal that led to ethics charges against Gov. Bob Taft.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
AKRON -- Two investment brokers accused of bribing a former Ohio workers' compensation official in a statewide scandal were found innocent on Tuesday.
The charges against brokers Daniel O'Neil and Michael Lewis are part of a yearlong political scandal that has shaken the state's Republican-dominated government.
Federal prosecutors had accused the two of making 6.7 million through a scheme to get state investment business by paying for the condo for Terrence Gasper, former chief financial officer of the scandal-ridden Bureau of Workers' Compensation.
Jurors deliberated three hours before finding the two not guilty following the two-week trial. The two hugged family members after the verdict.
Gasper pleaded guilty in June to federal and state charges that he accepted bribes in exchange for doling out agency business. He testified against O'Neil and Lewis.
Workers' comp business
The brokers managed stock investments for the 15 billion fund for injured workers while working at firms that received hundreds of thousands of dollars in commissions from the agency.
They were the eighth and ninth people charged in a yearlong political scandal in Ohio that has led to ethics charges against Gov. Bob Taft, who pleaded no contest to failing to report gifts.
Lewis and O'Neil also were accused of committing mail and wire fraud to conceal their relationship with Gasper and of lying to a federal agent about Gasper's involvement with the condo.
Prosecutors accused them of taking over payments on a luxury condo in Florida for Gasper and his then girlfriend, then trying to make it look as if Gasper paid rent when he did not. In exchange, O'Neil and Lewis got favorable treatment from Gasper regarding workers' comp investment business, the prosecutors alleged.
Lewis and O'Neil worked at several companies, including Roney & amp; Co., a Cleveland-area firm that in 1997 was the subject of an internal bureau investigation over allegations it was receiving a disproportionately high share of workers' comp business.
Raymond James & amp; Associates earned more than 530,000 in commissions while the two brokers were there from September 1999 through August 2000, according to bureau records.
Ferris, Baker Watts didn't have previous work with the bureau until Lewis and O'Neil joined it in 2000. The firm subsequently received 525,000 in bureau business.
Beginning of scandal
The scandal began with rare-coin dealer Tom Noe, who is accused of funneling 25,000 to Gasper as a bribe in return for state business.
Besides Taft, Gasper and Noe, four aides to the governor also have been charged.
Noe, a prominent GOP contributor, pleaded guilty May 31 to funneling about 45,000 to President Bush's re-election campaign. He also has been found guilty of what prosecutors said was the theft of 13.7 million from a 50 million investment in rare coins that he handled for the workers' comp bureau.
He has been sentenced to a combined 20 years in prison on both sets of charges.
Gasper could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison but is likely to get far less in exchange for testifying against others involved in the scandal.

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