Former Connecticut Governor Rowland Pleads Guilty to Corruption Charges in Juvenile Prison Kickback Scheme
Corruption Charges in Juvenile Prison Kickback Scheme
by Matthew T. Clarke
In December 2004, John G. Rowland, 47, former governor of Connecticut, pleaded guilty in federal court to accepting over $100,000 in bribes as part of a conspiracy by government officials. He faced one to two years in federal prison.
Rowland was the biggest player in a state government full of officials willing to sell out the public interest for cash and other considerations. Rowland became famous when revelations of an ill-gotten cottage, hot tub, and Cuban cigars led to a full-scale corruption scandal, resulting in an impeachment inquiry, state Supreme Court battle, and ultimately Rowland's resignation and guilty plea.
Peter Ellef, Rowland's co-chief of staff, was another big player in the corruption game. He doled out no-bid contracts to LF Designs, a company owned by his son, Peter Ellef II, and Tunxis Management Company, a company owned by the New Britain-based Tomasso family, which paid him off in cash transfers, gold coins, limousine rides to Boston and New York and other gratuities. The Tomasso companies, in turn, funneled $1.6 million in contracts to LF Design between January 1998 and April 2002. He is also alleged to have used LF Design corporate credit cards for personal expenses amounting to tens of thousands of dollars. The elder Ellef was also indicted for receiving $86,500 that Tomasso allegedly paid into a dummy corporation's account set up by Ellef and Lawerence Alibozek, his deputy. Alibozek was also indicted for receiving gold coins from Tomasso. The feds discovered his Tomasso gold coin stash buried in his yard.
Following the well-publicized suicide of troubled fifteen-year-old Tabatha Brendle in the infamous Long Lake School in Middletown, Rowland was faced with a political crisis. Tabatha, the victim of physical and sexual abuse since infancy, had been left unsupervised following an unsuccessful suicide attempt. Not only were the abysmal conditions in the notorious juvenile facility embarrassing to the urban renewal governor, the brutal school" imprisoned children under the care of the Department of Children and Families. That is the state department charged with preventing the abuse and neglect of children.
Instead of merely showing compassion and fixing the problem, Rowland's administration first handed Tomasso carte blanche for renovating Long Lane, then gave Tomasso a multi-million-dollar contract to build a new facility to replace Long Lane. The no-bid renovation contract worth close to $2.2 million was given to Tunxis. Another no-bid contract for $49 million to build the Connecticut Juvenile Training Center, Long Lane's replacement, earned" Tomasso Brothers, Inc. $3.3 million in management fees.
For Rowland, Ellef and the Tomasso's, crime pays, prisons pay, even the suicide of a troubled teenage girl pays....until they got caught, that is.
Now Rowland is preparing for political life after prison. Metamorphosing the announcement of his guilty plea into a political press conference, Rowland said, Obviously, mistakes have been made and I accept responsibility for those, but I also ask the people of this state to appreciate and understand what we have tried to do over the past 25 years in public service.
Rowland confidant and community activist Rev. Cornell Lewis of Hartford confirms that Rowland intends to keep his hand in the political pot.
He still has not lost that fervor for getting involved," said Lewis. After talking with him last week, no matter what happens, he's going to remain involved in things that go on in Hartford. He's not going to let that cloud hanging over him deter him from doing what's right." Rowland was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison on March 19, 2005.
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