HARTFORD -- An antiques dealer who bought a condominium from Governor John G. Rowland at well above market rates has entered into a plea agreement and is cooperating in the federal corruption investigation into Rowland's administration, a source told the Associated Press yesterday.
Wayne Pratt, one of the top antiques dealers in the country and a regular contributor to the PBS television show "Antiques Roadshow," is expected to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of tax evasion in US District Court in Hartford today, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Pratt is the first person with a direct financial link to Rowland known to be cooperating with investigators.
Pratt bought the Washington, D.C., condominium from Rowland in 1997 for $68,500, about 19 percent more than Rowland paid for it in 1989, when he was in Congress. Similar condos in the building sold around the same time for $20,000 to $30,000.
The sale was arranged through a mutual friend, businessman and state contractor Robert Matthews. He had been renting the Capitol Hill efficiency from Rowland for his niece for $1,750 per month. At the time, similar apartments in the area were renting for between $400 and $600.
Federal prosecutors have been working to determine whether there was a quid pro quo agreement between Rowland and state contractors. Rowland has acknowledged receiving gifts from employees and contractors, but said he did not provide anything in return. "My client has not engaged in any illegal activity and Pratt will not be able to offer any truthful information to the contrary," said William F. Dow III, Rowland's lawyer.
Pratt's plea agreement comes a year after the only other conviction in the case. Rowland's former deputy chief of staff, Lawrence Alibozek, pleaded guilty in federal court to accepting payoffs in return for steering state contracts.
Investigators are taking a close look at the relationship between Matthews and the governor.
Thomas Dwyer Jr., a lawyer for Pratt, would not comment on the plea deal.
Hubert Santos, a lawyer for Matthews, declined to comment. Austin McGuigan, another of Pratt's lawyers, did not return repeated telephone messages. Federal investigators declined to comment.
Matthews has received millions of dollars in state-backed loans for companies he owns.