Lawyers for Sen. Nathaniel Oaks say FBI used 'professional set-up artist' to target him

Lawyers for state Sen. Nathaniel Oaks say federal authorities deployed an informant who collects a six-figure annual paycheck from the FBI to entrap the Baltimore Democrat.

In court papers filed Thursday, Oaks’ defense team identified the informant as William Myles. But to Oaks, he was Mike Henley, a Texas businessman wanting to do property deals in Baltimore.

The attorneys said Myles has been paid $1.1 million over a decade’s work on sting cases against public officials around the country — even meeting targets at the same chain of steakhouses where he first encountered Oaks.

“Mr. Myles is nothing more than a professional set-up artist whose livelihood is dependent on inducing public officials into corrupt activity,” Oaks’ attorneys wrote in the documents filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Oaks is accused of taking $15,000 in payments from Myles and is scheduled to go to trial in April on fraud charges.

The lawmaker also faces a separate obstruction-of-justice charge. He is alleged to have agreed to help the FBI after being confronted about the bribes, only to sabotage the investigation.

Oaks has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He continues to serve in the state legislature, though he was removed from all committees this week. He has filed to run for reelection.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request for comment on the defense assertions. Myles could not be reached for comment.

The new court filing is the latest in a dispute between Oaks’ attorneys and federal prosecutors over whether Oaks was entrapped. Prosecutors have rebutted that claim, disclosing transcripts of conversations with Oaks that informants recorded. Prosecutors say the transcripts show that Oaks willingly went along with the scheme.

Oaks’ lawyers now say Myles and another informant had incentive to push Oaks into corrupt activities he would otherwise not have undertaken. For Myles, the incentive was financial; for the second informant, it was a chance to avoid prison time, the lawyers say.

The second informant, described in court documents only as a former aide to a county executive, has pleaded guilty in a bribery case and agreed to help the FBI in exchange for a lighter sentence, according to the new court filing.

“There are few incentives more powerful than money and freedom,” Oaks’ lawyers wrote. For the informants, “failure was simply not an option; failing to ensnare the government’s desired target meant financial ruin for one, and prison for the other.”

Oaks’ lawyers cited news coverage, other court cases and documents provided to them by prosecutors to outline the breadth of Myles’ work for the government. Agents paid Myles $4,500 a week and covered expenses necessary to maintain his cover as a wealthy businessman in the Oaks case, according to the filing. The lawyers said the expenses included “condominium rentals, hotels, travel, fancy car rentals, food and restaurant bills, clothing purchases, dry cleaning bills, etc.”

Transcripts from the prosecution of several officials in Louisiana provide an account in Myles’ own words of how he came to work for the FBI.

Myles said his relationship with the FBI began in 2005, according to one transcript. At that time, he worked for a minority contractor that won a deal to help rebuild schools in Hartford, Conn. Myles said officials tried to get him to provide jobs and no-bid contracts. He said he began recording the interactions, thinking he might take them to a local newspaper.

But that year, Myles testified that his son was arrested in a drug case and he thought that if he worked with the FBI he might be able to get his son out of trouble, so he provided the materials to them. Myles later decided to continue working with the FBI full time and moved to New Orleans to aid in a probe targeting public officials in the Baton Rouge area.

Myles testified that over time his motivation for working as an informant shifted.

The work “was bigger than my son,” he said, according to a transcript. “Could I make a difference for the FBI doing it? Not just going out there for them, but could I make a real sincere difference for the country?”

By the time he was on the witness stand in 2011, Myles said he had been involved in at least 40 cases in five states spanning investigations into fugitives, Ponzi schemes and national security matters.

In the Louisiana case, Myles posed as an executive with a garbage can company called Cifer 5000 and sought to corruptly win government contracts. Half a dozen people ended up being charged. A key early meeting in the case took place at a Ruth’s Chris steakhouse, according to court records.

Five years later in Baltimore, Myles told Oaks that he was a businessman from Texas looking to build apartments in the city, according to court documents. Prosecutors say Oaks took bribes from Myles in exchange for helping him secure financial support for projects.

The pair hit it off from their first meeting, according to a transcript of the meeting prosecutors filed in court. They were at a Ruth’s Chris steakhouse.

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