HARRISBURG, Pa. – The former Director of Marketing and Merchandising for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PA-LCB) is charged with a scheme to defraud the state, its citizens and the PA-LCB of their right to his honest services as a public official through bribes, kick-backs and concealing information.
James H. Short, Jr., 50, of Harrisburg, is charged with Honest Services Mail Fraud in a Criminal Information filed today in the United States District Court. Short served as the Director of Marketing and Merchandising from approximately 2003 to 2012 and supervised the process through which alcoholic beverages are selected and acquired for sale in Pennsylvania’s state-run liquor stores. With over $1 billion in annual revenue, the PA-LCB is one of the largest purchasers of alcohol in the world.
The charge is based upon Short’s alleged 10 years, from 2002 to 2012, of receiving benefits from a distributor and a manufacturer of alcoholic beverages sold in state liquor stores. These benefits included all-expense paid golf trips, cash, gift cards, meals, and other benefits.
As Director of Marketing and Merchandising for the PA-LCB, Short supervised the process of recommending to the PA-LCB which new products should be sold and which products should no longer be sold in Pennsylvania’s 500 state-run liquor stores. Short has been charged with accepting things of value from the companies with the intent to be influenced in decisions he made to recommend new products and remove others from Pennsylvania liquor stores while failing to disclose the receipt of the items in annual financial reports he was required to submit to the State Ethics Commission as a public official.
The Information describes two alleged examples of all-expense paid trips to Florida. In February 2010, Short is alleged to have been taken by private jet on an all-expense paid golf outing to Bonita Bay, Florida with the purpose of influencing his decision to list a particular product for sale. This trip, as well as a similar trip in December 2011, were part of an ongoing stream of benefits the vendor and manufacturer provided to Short to influence his decisions. The specific mailing in the charge is correspondence Short allegedly caused to be sent to company A in February 2012 notifying the company of a PA-LCB decision approving the listing of the company’s products.
No date has been scheduled yet for entry of Short’s guilty plea. Together with the Criminal Information, the government also filed a plea agreement with Short, which is subject to the approval of the court, and a joint statement of facts concerning the offense. Short faces a maximum penalty of 20 years of imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine.
The case is part of a continuing investigation by the Harrisburg Office of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael A. Consiglio. The case initially was brought by the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission which found that Short, along with two other former Pa. Liquor Control Board officials, violated the Pennsylvania Ethics act when the accepted certain things of value charged in the present federal case.