A businessman pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court to paying $42,500 in bribes to a former Baltimore politician.
Lance Lucas, who runs a nonprofit called Digit All Systems, which provides cybersecurity training, appeared in court for the first time as charges against him were unsealed, and admitted to bribing Del. Cheryl Glenn, the Democratic chair of the Baltimore delegation who has pleaded guilty to corruption charges.
According to his plea, Lucas, 44, made 11 payments between May 2018 and July 2019, increasing in amounts, as he sought to help an undisclosed company receive a medical marijuana license as well as her help pushing a bill related to the “Cyber Warrior Diversity Program" that provides grants to historically black colleges.
Glenn was being investigated by the FBI since at least 2018, and agents approached her in February 2019, according to court filings connected to her guilty plea. The allegations against Lucas straddle both sides of that period, and his interactions with Glenn after she was approached by the FBI appear to have been recorded, suggesting Glenn cooperated to take down Lucas.
She hugged the FBI agents in her case at the conclusion of her plea hearing. Her attorney declined to comment Monday.
Glenn met Lucas in the parking lot of an Annapolis restaurant to make one of the payments in March 2019, according to court filings associated with his guilty plea.
“I’m from Baltimore for real, for real Baltimore ... This is the least illegal thing I’ve ever done,” Lucas told her then.
Lucas’s attorney, Jerry Tarud, called Lucas an “IT genius” who had “changed the lives of many people for the better.” He previously partnered with Baltimore Police on an exchange program in which people who turned in guns received laptop computers.
“He’s remorseful and wished this never happened,” Tarud said.
Former state Sen. Barbara Robinson, a Baltimore Democrat, said she considers Lucas a friend and said she was shocked by the charges.
“This is not a surprise — this is a shock,” said Robinson, who received $2,000 in campaign contributions from Lucas in May 2018. “I’ve never known that part of him. I’ve always known him to do a lot of work in the community. ... He’s done so much for young people.”
Lucas will be sentenced on June 10.
Glenn pleaded guilty in January to a number of crimes related to her time in the legislature. Glenn was a chief proponent of legalizing medical marijuana, and the state’s medical marijuana commission is named after her mother.
In her plea agreement, Glenn admitted that she solicited and accepted $33,750 in cash payments through an associate to help an out-of-state marijuana dispensing company.
“I’ve stopped spending time with people if they’re not, um, donating,” she said during one meeting, according to the plea agreement.
She later accepted money from a local business owner in exchange for introducing legislation that would give local businesses priority for medical marijuana licenses, and later to introduce a bill to get that businessperson a liquor license on Belair Road.
The charges against Lucas, who became a self-made entrepreneur in the computer instruction field after being expelled from high school and joining the Army, also involve a company seeking a medical marijuana license.
Lucas’s plea agreement said he was introduced to Glenn at a lunch meeting in a room above an undisclosed car dealership in May 2018. Lucas told Glenn that a company had incurred significant costs in trying to get a dispensary license.
“If you had given me that money, I would’ve written you into the bill,” Glenn told Lucas, according to the plea agreement.
That began a series of payments Lucas made directly to Glenn. He also agreed to hold a fundraiser for Glenn on June 14, 2018, at a Baltimore hotel. Glenn, in turn, arranged a meeting for Lucas and representatives from the company with the chairman of the state’s cannabis commission, according to court records. Afterward, Lucas thanked Glenn.
She responded in a text message: “The meeting was great! I’m fundraising again. Campaign account is at zero ... Need to talk to you re help needed.”
During the next legislation session, Lucas sought help from Glenn by asking her to cross-file a bill already in the Senate that would expand the Cyber Warrior Diversity Program. Lucas explained that his nonprofit would receive payments from each institution that implemented the program, the plea deal said.
Glenn told Lucas that a delegate, described in his plea agreement as “fictitious," was holding up the bill and that she needed more money to get it passed.
The Cyber Warrior Diversity Program was created during the 2018 General Assembly session, with the goal of helping train young people of color for careers in cybersecurity. The 2019 legislation updated the program.
Lucas attended three public hearings on the legislation before General Assembly committees last year, according to the legislature’s video archives.
Lucas testified at two hearings in favor of the bill, testifying that before the creation of the diversity program, none of Maryland’s historically black universities offered a cybersecurity certificate program. The diversity program “changed the whole paradigm for HBCUs,” Lucas said during one of the hearings.
The bill eventually passed both chambers of the General Assembly unanimously and was signed by Gov. Larry Hogan.
In the March 2019 meeting outside an Annapolis restaurant, Lucas also offered to pay Glenn up to $80,000 for her assistance in securing a medical marijuana growing license for a company identified as “Company 3," which wanted to ensure it would be selected during the “double-blind application process.” He said the company was financed by billionaires and that money was no object.
“I need any advantage I can get," Lucas said.
Glenn told Lucas that she was nervous, and Lucas said the bribes were “pattycake” and that he would be “007 about this s---t.”
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He also noted payments received by former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, who “received a half million dollars for a damn book,” and former State Sen. Nathaniel Oaks, who Lucas said was only caught because he didn’t have a prior history with the people who paid him bribes. Pugh and Oaks both pleaded guilty to corruption charges.
“My thing is, I don’t leave nothing to [expletive] chance,” Lucas said. “We need to get this.”
Lucas also made a $13,800 payment to Glenn in a restaurant parking lot in May 2019, which he believed was going to an employee of the cannabis commission. Lucas’s plea agreement says that employee was “fictitious.”
Lucas has racked up accomplishments over the years. Former Governor Martin O’Malley appointed him to the state’s Offshore Wind Commission, and former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake appointed him to a task force on urban solar power. In 2014, he won a Baltimore NAACP Freedom Award. Lucas was the registered agent for a group called the State of Maryland Black Chamber of Commerce that was created in 2013, and served as its president until it dissolved in 2015.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified an organization for which Lucas served as president. The State of Maryland Black Chamber of Commerce, where Lucas served, has no affiliation with the Maryland Black Chamber of Commerce. The Sun regrets the error.