Baltimore, Maryland –Maryland State Senator Nathaniel Thomas Oaks, age 71, of Baltimore, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to one count of wire fraud and one count of honest services wire fraud.
The guilty plea was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Stephen M. Schenning and Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office.
According to the plea agreement, Oaks was a Maryland State Delegate representing District 41 (Baltimore City) from 1994 until being appointed to the Maryland Senate in February 2017, representing the same District.
According to the statement of facts in support of the plea agreement, on September 21, 2015, a cooperating individual introduced Oaks to an FBI confidential human source, “Mike Henley,” who portrayed himself as an out-of-town businessperson interested in obtaining contracts in the City of Baltimore. The meeting took place at a restaurant in Pikesville, Maryland, and was consensually recorded by Henley. During the meeting, Oaks offered to assist Henley with business development in Maryland.
During the months following the September 21, 2015 meeting between Henley and Oaks, Henley consensually recorded numerous telephone and in-person conversations with Oaks during which they discussed possible development and business-related opportunities that may be available to Henley in Maryland. One such opportunity was a United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) project (the Project) that Henley told Oaks that he was interested in developing in the City. Oaks told Henley that he wanted to help with the HUD project.
According to the plea agreement, between the months of April 2016 and July 2016, Oaks issued two letters on his official House of Delegates letterhead which contained materially false and fraudulent representations to a person whom he believed to be a HUD official in order to assist Henley in obtaining federal grant funds from HUD. Henley paid Oaks $10,300 for his assistance.
According to the statement of facts in support of the plea agreement, on September 22, 2016, Henley paid Oaks $5,000 in exchange for Oaks’ agreement to file a bond bill request with the Maryland Department of Legislative Services (DLS) seeking $250,000 in state funds for the Project. Oaks filed the bill request with DLS later that day. On November 21, 2016, Oaks forwarded an email to Henley that had been sent to him by DLS. The email attached the draft of the bill to establish a $250,000 bond to be used for the Project.
All the money paid to Oaks by Henley was supplied by the FBI and the meetings were recorded using audio/video recording equipment.
On or about January 9, 2017, Oaks confessed to two FBI agents that he has accepted the first two payments from Henley in exchange for issuing two letters to HUD on his official House of Delegates letterhead and that he knew the letters contained materially false statements in an effort to assist Henley with his housing project. Oaks further confessed to the agents that he had accepted the third payment from Henley in exchange for filing a request for DLS to draft the Bond Bill Legislation.
Oaks agreed to cooperate with the FBI in an investigation of Person #1 for possible violations of federal criminal laws. As part of that cooperation, and at the direction of the FBI, Oaks covertly recorded his telephone conversations and in-person meetings with Person #1 beginning on January 9, 2017 and continuing until March 30, 2017.
According to the plea agreement, on or about March 17, 2017, without recording or disclosing the existence of the conversation to the FBI, Oaks approached Person #1 at a bar in Annapolis and told him “what we talked about, just say no.” On March 30, 2017, Oaks again approached Person #1 in the hallway of a State government building in Annapolis and said “I’m going to ask you for something, just say no.” These statements were intended to dissuade Person #1 from engaging in the activity that was the subject of the criminal investigation and which activity Oaks and Person #1 had discussed in a recorded conversation earlier that day.
As a result of Oaks’ deliberate and intentional conduct in tipping off Person #1, the covert investigation of Person #1 and possibly other politicians was no longer viable.
Oaks faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the wire fraud count and 20 years in prison for the honest services wire fraud count. Oaks is scheduled to be sentenced July 17, 2018 at 11 a.m. in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
Acting United States Attorney Stephen M. Schenning commended the FBI for its work in the investigation. Mr. Schenning thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kathleen O. Gavin and Leo J. Wise, who are prosecuting the case.