Defense lobbyist indicted on 11 counts

The founder of a once-lucrative defense lobby shop was arrested on Thursday after being indicted on eight counts of making illegal campaign contributions to lawmakers.

Government prosecutors allege that Paul Magliocchetti, who founded the now-defunct PMA Group, orchestrated a scheme to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions in an effort to enrich himself and his firm by increasing its influence and prestige in Washington.

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The PMA Group has been under scrutiny since early 2009 from federal authorities and House ethics committee investigators, but prosecutors do not allege any wrongdoing by lawmakers, who they say were not aware of Magliocchetti’s scheme.

Magliocchetti was indicted on a total of 11 counts: four of making illegal campaign contributions in the name of someone else; four of making illegal campaign contributions from a corporation; and three of causing federal campaigns to unwittingly make false statements, according to a release from the Department of Justice.

The former star lobbyist made an initial appearance in Alexandria federal court on Thursday afternoon. He will enter a plea at his arraignment, which is scheduled for Aug. 13.

The court released Magliocchetti under several conditions, including that he post a $2 million bond and surrender his passport, according to information provided by the Justice Department’s press office.

Magliocchetti also can’t leave the Washington area except to travel to his home in Florida, and must remain only on Amelia Island when there, Justice said.

The court also said Magliocchetti must “receive mental health treatment at a location that pre-trial services thinks is appropriate” as a condition of his release, according to Justice. He must “reside at a place approved by pre-trial services, which will include his current presence at a psychiatric facility in Baltimore,” Justice said.

The PMA founder is represented by Bill Lawler and Amy Riella of Vinson & Elkins LLP. The firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Separately, Magliocchetti’s son Mark pleaded guilty to one charge of making illegal campaign contributions. Mark Magliocchetti, who worked at his father’s firm, could face a year in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the plea agreement he reached with federal authorities.

Mark Magliocchetti made between $120,000 and $200,000 in illegal campaign contributions, according to court documents.

The PMA Group made significant campaign contributions to several veteran defense appropriators, including the late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), a defense appropriations chairman.

It also contributed to the new chairman, Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), and committee members Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.).

Ethics investigators already scrutinized several lawmakers and cleared them in the process.

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The indictment alleges that Magliocchetti used straw donors, including family members and PMA employees, to make contributions to campaign committees. He then personally or through his company paid back those donors for their contribution in a scheme to evade donation limits to lawmakers, according to the Justice Department.

Prosecutors say that the PMA founder also recruited two acquaintances in Florida to write checks to candidates and then reimbursed them by writing personal or company checks.

The Floridians, John Pugliese and Jon Walker, were listed as PMA associates and members of the PMA board of directors since 2005. The two men, however, were not involved in defense lobbying and were not seen as political players despite their checks to politicians.

The Hill reported last year that Magliocchetti was planning to go into another business with the two Florida-based men.

According to corporate records filed with Florida’s Department of State, Magliocchetti is listed as an executive for Firenze Partners with Walker and Pugliese. Based in Fernandina Beach, Fla., the business’s purpose is to be a restaurant, according to its articles of organization on record.

Filed on Nov. 26, 2008, the records state that Magliocchetti, Pugliese and Walker are all managers of the business.