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Mobtown Beat

Maryland lobbyist Bruce Bereano loses fraud-convictions appeal

Photo: Courtesy Fern Shen/Baltimorebrew.Com, License: N/A

Courtesy Fern Shen/Baltimorebrew.Com

Bruce Bereano

It was a valiant effort, but Maryland super-lobbyist Bruce Bereano’s attempt to erase his 1994 federal fraud convictions (“Stain Removal,” Mobtown Beat, April 15, 2011) was stopped in its tracks Feb. 8 by the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.

Bereano had hoped that the historic 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Skilling v. United States—which vacated the “honest services” provision of the federal mail-fraud statute that was used, in part, to convict him—would prove a persuasive basis to overturn his convictions. But the appellate court judges, in a 20-page published opinion, agreed with Maryland U.S. District Judge William Nickerson (“Lobbyist Bruce Bereano to appeal lost bid to overturn fraud conviction,” The News Hole, March 2, 2012) that Bereano’s convictions stood primarily on the traditional “pecuniary fraud” theory, which remains legally valid and entails the cut-and-dry concept of taking money to which one is not entitled, and therefore should stand.

Adjunct business-law professor and lawyer Frank Razzano, who has taught the Bereano case in classes and had earlier told City Paper that Bereano had “the better of the arguments” in his appeal, says the outcome is “disappointing” and “demonstrates how difficult it is for any criminal defendant ever to get a reversal.” Razzano adds that “I don’t think  and he questions “whether this case would have been brought originally but for the honest-services theory,” a hazy legal construct involving a generalized breakdown in fiduciary trust.

After a widely publicized trial, a jury convicted Bereano for stealing clients’ money by billing them falsely for “legislative services” and using the proceeds to make veiled donations to politicians from his political action committee. After his earlier post-conviction appeal attempts, in 1998 he received a five-month sentence, five months in home detention, and a $30,000 fine, and he lost his license to practice law. Today, he remains a high-profile lobbyist in Annapolis.

Bereano’s attorney, Timothy Maloney, did not respond to an emailed request for comment, but Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein wrote in an email to City Paper that “a trial is not necessarily the end of the criminal justice process,” adding that “some cases never seem to be over.”

This one, though—unless Bereano adopts the unlikely strategy of trying to take it to the Supreme Court—finally has come to an end, nearly two decades after it began.

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