October 25, 2005

Two plead guilty in Connecticut corruption case

BOSTON (Reuters) - A senior aide to former Connecticut Gov.
John Rowland and a contractor pleaded guilty on Tuesday to two
felonies in a multi-million dollar scandal that forced the
governor to resign last year.

Former co-chief of staff Peter Ellef and William Tomasso,
president of a real estate company, face maximum prison
sentences of five years each after pleading guilty to
conspiracy to commit tax fraud and bribery, officials said.

Rowland, once a rising young star in the Republican Party,
is serving one year in prison after pleading guilty last
December to a corruption charge linked to the federal probe.

Prosecutors had accused Ellef and Tomasso of giving
multi-million-dollar contracts to Tomasso in exchange for
expensive gifts ranging from cash to gold and airline tickets.

Prosecutors said Tomasso and his company had bribed Ellef
and his son, Peter Ellef II, who owns a landscaping business,
in exchange for preferential treatment in connection with the
awarding of state business.

Tomasso's companies received more than $100 million in
state contracts that never were put up for bid during Rowland's
term in office, while the younger Ellef was paid more than $2
million from Tomasso for work done by his landscaping company.

Tomasso and the elder Ellef agreed to pay the state $1
million under an agreement with Attorney General Richard
Blumenthal, according to a statement from Blumenthal's office.

"I'm satisfied that this result does justice, returns
taxpayer dollars, and helps bring closure to a shameful chapter
in state history," Blumenthal said.

Rowland, 48, admitting to lying about accepting free
renovations on a cabin from state contractors. The governor of
nine years resigned in June 2004 and is scheduled to be
released from prison in February.

Charges were dropped against Ellef's son, said Tom Carson,
spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Connecticut.