Federal grand jury indicts former state lawmaker in alleged cash-for-votes plot

A federal grand jury has indicted former state Del. Michael Vaughn on charges that he took bribes to support a Prince George's County liquor license bill that was being considered by the General Assembly, authorities said.

The indictment, announced Wednesday, also alleges that Vaughn misused his campaign finance account.


Vaughn who had represented part of Prince George's County since 2003, was a member of the House leadership team before he resigned abruptly in January, citing health reasons. His resignation came days after federal officials unsealed indictments in a bribery scandal that ensnared a former state lawmaker, two county liquor board officials and two local businessmen.

Vaughn could not be reached for comment. No lawyer is listed for him in court records.

The 59-year-old Democrat is accused of accepting more than $10,000 in cash bribes from liquor store owners in exchange for supporting a bill in 2015 that allowed some businesses in Prince George's County to sell liquor on Sundays, and then, after that bill passed, working last year on legislation to protect the businesses that bribed him from competition.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch called it a "sad day" for the legislature.

"We are sworn to uphold the public trust, and if proven, this was an egregious violation of that trust and a violation of criminal law," the Anne Arundel County Democrat said. "I'm deeply disappointed that any member of the House would compromise our democratic process."

Vaughn was deputy majority whip in the House and a member of the Economic Matters Committee.

The indictment also alleges that between 2012 and 2016, Vaughn siphoned money from his campaign account and used it for personal benefit. He is accused of using the campaign cash to pay his tax bill, among other things.

Prosecutors say Vaughn filed fraudulent campaign finance reports in an attempt to conceal his misuse of the money. One report said his campaign account contained more than $64,000 when it really had a balance of $1,600, prosecutors said.

Vaughn is the latest person indicted in federal officials' investigation of public corruption in Prince George's County.

Two county liquor board officials and two liquor store owners were charged in January in an alleged bribery conspiracy in which officials were said to have been paid for favorable liquor license actions. Court documents stated that authorities had two confidential informants — one a current elected official and the other a former elected official.

The next week, former Del. William Campos pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy. The Democrat is alleged to have accepted bribes while on the Prince George's County Council in exchange for awarding county grants to nonprofits associated with business owners who gave him money.

Cases for the two county liquor board officials and two liquor store owners are on hold while prosecutors and the defendants' lawyers discuss a resolution, according to court filings.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has proposed legislation to stiffen ethics rules in the state capital.

His spokeswoman said Wednesday that Vaughn's indictment underscores the importance of the legislation. Among the governor's proposals are bills that would clearly prohibit lawmakers from voting on legislation that would help them financially and reform how local liquor board appointments are made.


"The governor vowed to clean up the mess in Annapolis, and that's exactly what he intends to do," spokeswoman, Amelia Chasse said. "Ultimately, we cannot let the actions of the few tarnish the goodwill and positive efforts of the many."