Sentencing Delayed for Former County Official Who Was FBI Informant in Oaks Case

The sentencing of Baltimore County political operative Robert J. Barrett, an FBI undercover source who agreed to wear a wire in the corruption probe of ex-lawmaker Nathaniel T. Oaks as part of a plea deal in a bribery case, has been pushed four months to September.

 

Amid a sudden flurry of sealed federal court filings, prosecutors asked Tuesday that Barrett’s sentencing, scheduled for May 21, be postponed until Sept. 24 – more than a year after he pleaded guilty to a single charge of filing a false income tax return for calendar 2013.

 

No public reason was given for the change in the sentencing date before U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett, who also presided over Oaks’ pleading guilty to two federal felonies March 29 and is scheduled to sentence the disgraced state senator July 17.

 

The sentencing date change followed sealed documents being filed May 8 and Monday by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen O. Gavin, the lead prosecutor in both the Barrett and Oaks cases. The document filed Monday was modified Tuesday, which is when Bennett signed both the prosecution’s motion to seal the documents and the sentencing date change.

 

Barrett, once a key aide to two Baltimore County executives, had been a prime witness in the government’s case against Oaks — and possibly others who have yet to be publicly identified in a wide-ranging probe of Maryland political corruption.

 

Court filings in the Oaks case repeatedly referenced wiretaps of Barrett’s phone calls and transcripts of conversations recorded from a body wire he wore for federal authorities.

 

 Judge Richard D. Bennett  

Until a Maryland Matters article revealed his identity in March, Barrett was only known publicly in the Oaks case as “the Confidential Witness” (“CW”) and referred to as “S-00063808” by the ex-lawmaker’s defense attorneys.

 

Federal court records show that Barrett lied on his income tax returns for calendar 2011, 2012 and 2013 by not reporting a total of $59,500 for those years, including $22,000 he took as cash bribes from two people he did not realize were actually FBI undercover sources.

 

He agreed to work undercover for federal investigators when they confronted him with accepting bribes in the summer of 2014.

 

Barrett pleaded guilty before Bennett to the single income tax charge on Sept. 19, 2017. His initial May 21 sentencing was scheduled to follow Oaks’ trial, which was to take place last month, until he too pleaded guilty.

 

During the time he was cooperating with federal authorities, Barrett met with Oaks multiple times and eventually introduced him to FBI undercover source “Mike Henley,” posing as a Texas businessman who wanted to build apartments in Baltimore.

 

Oaks, 71, pleaded guilty to two charges of wire fraud and honest services wire fraud stemming from the federal corruption probe in which he took $15,300 in bribes from “Henley.” Two hours before his March 29 plea, Oaks resigned his Maryland Senate seat.

 

Barrett had been a high-level official in the county administrations of C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, now a U.S. congressman, and James T. Smith Jr., now a top adviser to the Baltimore mayor, before retiring March 1 as the Baltimore County Public Schools System’s executive officer for community outreach/government relations.

 

He held the position with the county school system since 2010, just before the late Kevin B. Kamenetz was elected county executive.

 

Barrett faces a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a fine of $250,000, in addition to any tax restitution, interest and penalty that might be required.

 

The amount of tax owed on the $59,500 that he did not declare as income in 2011, 2012 and 2013 is $16,660 – before any penalty or interest – court records show.

 

Prosecutors said in the plea agreement they would recommend that Bennett order restitution in the amount of $16,660, but also noted that the Internal Revenue Service “is not a party to this agreement and remains free to pursue any and all lawful remedies it may have,” records show.

 

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William F. Zorzi
Bill Zorzi was a Baltimore Sun reporter and editor for nearly 20 years, focusing on government and politics. An Annapolis bureau veteran, he wrote a weekly column, “The Political Game” for the paper.Zorzi and another former Sun reporter, David Simon, are longtime collaborators on acclaimed television projects, including the HBO series, “The Wire,” and the HBO miniseries “Show Me a Hero,” which dealt with an explosive housing desegregation case in Yonkers, NY.

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