HARRISBURG, Pa. – A former Pennsylvania state treasurer pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about whether an investment adviser funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to her after she left office.
Prosecutors indicated Barbara Hafer, 73, was likely to face a few months, if any, under federal sentencing guidelines, although that will be up to a judge. The maximum possible sentence for the felony offense is five years and a $250,000 fine.
The U.S. attorney's office told the judge that Hafer denied in 2016 that she received money from asset manager Richard Ireland shortly after her term as treasurer ended in early 2005. In reality, a company tied to him had funneled $675,000 to her new company, Hafer and Associates LLC, between 2005 and 2007, prosecutors said.
U.S. Attorney Bruce Brandler said federal agents need the truth from people they are interviewing, particularly in high-profile public corruption cases.
"Lying to federal agents is a serious crime and the United States attorney's office treats these offenses accordingly," Brandler said. "Today's guilty plea will hopefully deter others from engaging in similar misconduct in the future."
Hafer declined comment after the hearing in federal court in Harrisburg.
Hafer, a Republican-turned-Democrat, is the second ex-state treasurer in three years to plead guilty to federal charges. Rob McCord, a Democrat, resigned in 2015 in the middle of his second term before pleading guilty to attempted extortion in a campaign finance-related case. McCord has not yet been sentenced.
Ireland's firm drew millions in fees by helping private asset managers win state Treasury Department investment contracts under Hafer, prosecutors have said.
Hafer was not charged with any corruption counts; most federal crimes have a five-year statute of limitations.
Her lawyers initially argued that the charges were based on little more than her memory lapses.
U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, who accepted Hafer's plea on Friday, threw out a criminal case against Ireland in March, agreeing with defense lawyers that prosecutors had not proven his campaign contributions or his help in McCord's private business affairs were intended to win official favors from McCord.
Ireland had been accused of trying to bribe McCord with campaign contributions, some made secretly through other people, to land the lucrative state investment contracts. At one point, Ireland also offered to put McCord on his payroll after McCord left office.
Prosecutors said Friday that Ireland told McCord in a taped conversation that he had "taken care of" Hafer after she left office.
While Hafer was treasurer, companies linked to Ireland received more than $50 million in fees between 2001 and 2004, prosecutors told Jones. Ireland was also one of Hafer's main campaign donors during that period.
When agents asked Hafer about Ireland in 2016, she said she had not received a dime of his money, prosecutors told the judge. In fact, the $675,000 was a substantial percentage of the money her firm took in.
Hafer had been scheduled to go on trial next week.