By Mary E. O’Leary and Jordan Fenster, Staff Reporters

NEW HAVEN — Five more people Thursday pleaded not guilty to federal conspiracy and election law violations in the 5th District campaign scandal involving a Waterbury smoke shop for a total of eight charged in the case that has roiled a congressional election in Western Connecticut.

The individuals face sentences of five years to 57 years with jury selection set for Oct. 10, long after both parties sort out their 5th District candidate choices in primaries on Aug. 14, but front and center in the news before the November election.

A total of $27,500 in illegal “conduit checks,” that is checks that hide the true identity of the donors, were all contributed to Democratic House Speaker Christopher Donovan’s campaign for the 5th District seat and were signed by 11 individuals, according to the court documents.

Chris Donovan, Connecticut 5th District Congress Candidate 2012

Chris Donovan, Connecticut 5th District Congress candidate.

At this point, Soucy had agreed to wear a wire as part of a sting operation run by the FBI when talking to those allegedly involved in the scheme. At no point is Donovan ever quoted.

Soucy told Nassi if the candidate was “good with this,” he would give him another $10,000 after already giving $20,000. (Scroll down to read the indictment and the document recounting Soucy’s role)

Nassi, according to the indictment, said he did not know if he could “make a promise like that,” but he was “continuing to work on it.”

When Soucy asked again, “Is (Public Official Number 1) good with this?” Nassi responded:

“Yeah.” He later said, “I’m, you know, doing everything I can … you gotta just monitor this s**t all the time.”

On May 3, Soucy reported to Nassi that Public Official Number 1 told him “he’s working on it.”

Joshua Nassi, right, former campaign manager for Chris Donovan, leaves federal court in New Haven after his arraignment. The man on the left is unidentified. The FBI arrested six people and charged them in the case of conduit contributions made to Donovan's campaign. Peter Casolino/Register

Soucy said, “hopefully, we can get this thing killed and I can take care of (Public Official Number 1) for another ten grand and much more later on. Alright, brother? Nassi responded, “Yup. I hear ya, I hear ya man, I mean we’ll uh, like I said, we’ll up, keep working on it and um, we’ll plan to talk after session’s over.”

On Nassi’s comments to Soucy in the indictment, Tom Swan, Donovan’s new campaign manager said: I’m not gonna comment on what that meant or what that didn’t mean.”

“The story coming out is much more about Roll Your Own than Chris Donovan,” Swan added.

On Soucy’s reliability, Swan said: “He’s probably the least credible person on the planet.”

“I know that Chris Donovan did nothing wrong. He’s made that clear.”

The purpose of the conduit contributions — political donations made through a third party — was to influence legislation then under review by the state legislature that would have raised taxes on Roll-Your-Own tobacco smoke shops.

“So [PublicOfficial Number l] put out the word, ‘dead’?” Soucy asked Nassi, according to the indictment.

“Yeah. Yes he did,” Nassi responded.

He is part of the superseding indictment that was issued Wednesday and will be back in court on Tuesday again, while Monteiro will be arraigned on Friday, as he was out of town Thursday.

In total, eight people have been charged in the case, including Ray Soucy, 60, of Naugatuck, a former employee of the state Department of Correction who also served as the treasurer of AFSCME, Local 387, who pleaded guilty July 24 to one count of devising a scheme to bribe a public official, and one count of conspiring to make false statements to the Federal Election Commission and to impede the FEC’s enforcement of federal campaign finance laws.

Margolis put a number of special conditions on the bonds set for the five men, with Moffa told to turn over five firearms that were in his house to police in his hometown of Middlebury or to the Connecticut state police.

The arraignment was attended mainly by press and federal officials, but it appeared that some family members also were there.

None of the five men who were arraigned Thursday had any comments to the press afterward. The only response came from  Waterbury attorney George Mowad, who was representing Tirado.

“Officer Tirado is a well respected police officer in the city of Waterbury for the past 14 years. … His impeccable reputation is based on his integrity, his honesty and his strong work ethic. We are confident that those characteristics will come shining through when he is exonerated from these allegations,” Mowad said, as Tirado stood next to him. Mowad said the federal government did not have a strong case.

Most were arrested at their homes on Thursday morning, but Nassi turned himself in to federal officials.

Hogan, a worker in the Smoke House Tobacco, faces five years in prison for conspiring to make false statements to the Federal Election Commission, but the charges against the rest have much longer maximum prison terms.

Rogers is looking at 57 years, while Moffa and Tirado could serve 17 years; Nassi and Braddock are facing 12 years in prison, according to the indictment.

Paul Rodgers, co-owner of Smoke House Tobacco leaves federal court in New Haven after his arraignment. The FBI arrested six individuals and charged them in the case of the conduit contributions made to Chris Donovan´s campaign. Peter Casolino/Register

William Bloss, attorney for Nassi, argued that Nassi not be required to post a surety bond, which would mean putting up his mother’s home for collateral. Bloss said his client knew for several months that he was facing these charges and had provided “information” to officials investigating the case.

He said Nassi was no flight risk, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher M. Mattei, one of two prosecutors, said some security was necessary to be consistent with the other defendants and because Nassi has allegedly deceived federal agencies.

Nassi has asked to be able to leave the state to go to the Eastern and Southern District of New York to work with his father, which Mattei left up to the probation department.
BRADDOCK, Et Al Ss Indictment
SOUCY Information