Redistricting Committee Member Guilty of $4M in Tax Evasion

By Len Lazarick,

Richard Stewart. (Photo: Md. Stadium Authority WEb site)
Richard Stewart. (Photo: Md. Stadium Authority Web site)
Richard Stewart, a member of the five-person Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee, pleaded guilty last Thursday to failing to pay almost $4 million in federal Social Security and income taxes for a company he owned.

According to a press release from the Justice Department, from 2003 through at least 2008, as owner of Montgomery Mechanical Services, “Stewart did not collect, truthfully account for and pay over approximately $3,969,337 of Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) taxes and federal income tax withholdings, commonly known as trust fund taxes, from his employees’ wages.”

“According to the terms of the plea agreement,” the release said, “Stewart is required to pay restitution to the IRS in the amount of $5,414,647, which encompasses both the trust fund taxes that he failed to pay and his obligation, as an employer, to pay over a matching portion of FICA taxes.”

Stewart faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 when he is sentenced in April.

Stewart, a Mitchellville resident, chaired Gov. Martin O’Malley’s re-election campaign in Prince George’s County last year. In 2007, O’Malley also appointed Stewart to the Maryland Stadium Authority.

According to a short bio on the Stadium Authority website, Stewart’s “vision and expertise in business performance resulted in increased profitability, elevated the standing of MMS in the construction industry, implemented many innovations and maximized the firm’s emphasis on customer service.”

Stewart has served as vice chair for the Revenue Authority of Prince George’s County and a member of the Prince George’s County Community Development Corporation. He and his business have won state and national minority business awards.

Stewart’s plea made little news last week, though there was a brief in the Gazette that made no connection to his service on the redistricting committee. GRAC is scheduled to hold a hearing this morning on the legislative redistricting plan it announced Friday.

The connection was brought to light by a statement from David Ferguson, the new executive director of the Maryland Republican Party.

“The governor’s redistricting plan has been criticized by liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans alike for its partisan and divisive nature,” Ferguson said. “But now, the integrity of the entire map and the process in which it was crafted must be questioned.”

“Governor O’Malley stood firmly with Mr. Stewart for over 6 months during this very difficult time in his life,” Ferguson continued. “While the Governor’s loyalty to his political ally and friend should be commended, his overriding responsibility is to the nearly 6 million people in Maryland to produce a just map that accurately reflects our political and natural boundaries. In keeping with that responsibility, the Governor should remove Mr. Stewart from the committee.”

In an interesting irony, the judge due to sentence Stewart in April is Roger Titus, the U.S. District Court judge handling the lawsuit against the congressional redistricting map Stewart helped draw.

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