Federal prosecutors say in newly revealed court documents that indicted state Senator Nathaniel T. Oaks admitted to taking cash bribes in exchange for official business.
Oaks became an informant and helped in taking down other corrupt officials that were the subject of other bribery investigations. The U.S. attorney's office says Oaks confessed to taking cash payments and to interfering with an investigation. He pleaded not guilty and has a trial scheduled for mid-April.
Oaks is a Baltimore Democrat and is accused of taking $15,300 in cash from someone he thought was a "wealthy Texas businessman" but in reality was working for the FBI. After agreeing to cooperate, Oaks recorded himself accepting a $2,600 cash payment from an FBI target. The exchange took place under the table at an Annapolis restaurant in March 2017.
Oaks' recording shows an apparently common practice of politicians accepting cash payments in exchange for talking to legislators about a bill or other political favors. In other encounters, it appears Oaks tried to thwart the FBI investigation by telling the target, "I'm going to ask you for something. Just say no."
The same target, identified only as Person #1, told authorities they paid for parties hosted by Oaks, round-trip flights and hotel rooms in Las Vegas. In exchange for the lavish gifts, Oaks would seek to use his political reach to his benefit.
Oaks has a history of dishonesty. In 1989 he was convicted of stealing thousands of dollars from his own campaign fund while serving in the House of Delegates. For some unknown reason, he was allowed to regain his seat in 1994 and was even promoted last year to the state Senate to replace a legislator who stepped down for health reasons.
In January 2017, Oaks went to meet a businessman in a downtown hotel room but was instead met by FBI agents who showed him recorded video of Oaks accepting cash payments. Prosecutors wrote, "After watching the videos, Oaks stated that he was 'in a predicament' and that he wanted to cooperate with the FBI."
They went on to say, "Oaks told the agents that he believed Person #1 would be willing to make corrupt payments to him and other politicians in order to advance Person #1's business interests. Person #1 stated that he could call on Oaks when he needed help and that due to Oaks' official position, Oaks could give Person #1 access to other important elected officials."
The corruption is obvious and it runs deep. Politicians using their position for their own benefit or gain should be subject to especially harsh punishments to deter others. Oaks has been stealing money and taking bribes his whole career and is still holding a political office.
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