Mayor Vincent Gray's driver during the 2010 campaign has admitted to federal prosecutors that he knew about the "Uncle Earl" finance scheme taking place behind the scenes.
Mark Long, 47, the former director of advance operations for the 2010 campaign team, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiring to defraud the District of Columbia’s Office of Campaign Finance by funding and concealing illegal contributions.
Long admitted knowing that business owner Jeffrey E. Thompson, aka Uncle Earl — a nickname federal prosecutors say was used to conceal the corrupt campaign financier's identity — and business owner Eugenia C. Harris, who paid him for his services, intended to and did conceal the payments from the finance office. Prosecutors say Long received a salary from Harris’ company from May 2010 through September 2010, for escorting the candidate in a Lincoln Navigator, which he suspected was provided by Harris. The campaign did not report the paycheck in campaign finance filings.
Long also set up a secret August 2010 meeting between Gray and a rival mayoral candidate in August of 2010, according to charging documents. Based on his discussions with Harris, Long understood the meeting was to attempt to arrange a secret agreement in which the rival would drop out of the race and endorse Gray in exchange for $20,000.
This spring, prosecutors painted a detailed picture of how Thompson pumped more than $660,000 in illegal donations into the Gray campaign, and alleged the mayor was in on the scheme. Gray has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged.
Long's guilty plea calls for him to cooperate fully in an ongoing investigation into the campaign. The charge carries up to five years in prison and possible financial penalties. Under the terms of the deal struck between U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr.'s office and defense attorneys, Long faces a range of one to 12 months in prison, or, possibly, probation.
No sentencing date was set.
“Mark Long’s guilty plea is further evidence that this 2010 mayoral campaign was rife with corruption,” Machen said in a statement that did not mention Gray by name. “Long is now the sixth person associated with the 2010 mayoral campaign to become a felon as a result of illegal conduct on behalf of that campaign."
Machen implied more prosecutions could be coming. He pledged to continue working to "hold accountable everyone who conspired with him to poison our political system."
Long also accepted and concealed illegal contributions from Thompson and Harris during his own 2008 bid for an at-large D.C. Council seat, according to prosecutors.
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