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Ex-aide admits stealing lawmaker’s funds

Campaign chief spent on himself

Michael Sohn of Fairfield, Conn., faces up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $75,000 under a plea deal. Michael Sohn of Fairfield, Conn., faces up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $75,000 under a plea deal.
By Stephen Singer
Associated Press / March 12, 2010

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HARTFORD — The onetime campaign manager for former US Representative Chris Shays pleaded guilty yesterday to tax evasion and to taking more than $250,000 in campaign money to pay for car repairs, limousine rides, baseball tickets, furniture, and other personal expenses.

Michael Sohn of Fairfield entered the pleas in US District Court in Hartford.

He faces up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $75,000 under a plea deal.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 27.

“I don’t disagree with anything,’’ Sohn, 35, told US Magistrate Donna Martinez as an assistant US attorney, Peter Jongbloed, read aloud the details of Sohn’s spending and his failure to report income.

Prosecutors said that Sohn, using ATM and debit cards, took tens of thousands of dollars from Shays’s campaign account each year between 2005 and 2008.

In the plea agreement, Sohn disputed the prosecution’s position that he abused a position of trust, which would add prison time.

If the sentencing judge agrees with Sohn, he would face a sentence of just 2 1/2 to three years and a fine of up to $60,000.

Sohn was charged with failing to report $527,136 in income between 2005 and 2008 as an employee of the Shays campaign and the US House of Representatives, along with the campaign money he took.

Prosecutors said he did not file tax returns in 2005, 2006, and 2007.

Sohn worked for nearly six years as campaign manager for Shays, a Republican who served 10 terms in Congress, representing Southwestern Connecticut. Shays lost the seat in 2008.

Prosecutors said Sohn caused Shays’s campaign committee to file four false campaign reports in 2008 because the reports did not accurately report the campaign’s expenditures and the cash available.

Sohn had faced four counts of illegally converting campaign contributions to his personal use, four counts of making false statements, three counts of not filing a federal income tax return, and one count of tax evasion.

He pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion and one count of illegal conversion.

Just weeks after Shays was defeated, a review of his campaign finances uncovered irregularities. Jongbloed said the campaign contacted the FBI, which investigated.