Amid a federal corruption investigation that has already taken down one of her colleagues, Broward County School Board Member Ann Murray has hired a man with a federal fraud conviction as her campaign manager.
Murray has already paid $1,000 to manager George Bograkos, who was was initially charged with bribery and fraud in 1994, for consulting fees from her current campaign and roughly $2,400 more to his mailing company, which was also involved in the crime but was never charged.
Bograkos initially pleaded guilty to bribery and fraud charges but later pleaded only to fraud and was sentenced to a year in prison and forced to repay $205,000 he allegedly ripped off from the U.S. Postal Service through his bulk mailer business.
His case was part of what was touted at the time as the largest bulk-mail fraud scheme in United States history.
Murray told me she has a decades-long friendship with Bograkos, who was president of the Hollywood Democratic Club when he was indicted, and was well aware of his criminal history.
"I've known him from the Democratic club for years," she said. "There are many people in Broward County that I'm familiar with who may have made a poor judgment in their lives. He did his time and he
paid for it. And he's an upstanding citizen. Everybody has a skeleton in his closet."
She said she would keep Bograkos on as campaign manager.
"I really feel bad that maybe I've put him in your periscope," she told me. "He will stay with me in the campaign. That is my decision. He has been loyal to me. He has done everything that I asked him to do."
Bograkos said he leads an exemplary life now -- and downplayed his former crime.
"Nobody got defrauded of anything," Bograkos told me today. "The government claimed it was. The whole thing was part of an entrapment that was promulgated by two employees at the Hollywood post office. It was a mistake. I admitted it because I wanted to get on with my life. I'm a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War and I've served on several school advisory councils and I'm an upstanding community member."
Bograkos was a bit more contrite at his sentencing in 1995 for the crime, which was actually committed in the late 1980s.
"There's nothing you can do for me today that will cause me any more personal pain than the injury I have brought against my own country," he said at the time. "I feel I have let it down, along with my family."
Sure, everybody should get a second chance, but aren't there enough non-felons, even in Broward, out there to choose from before a politician has to dip into the ex-con pool? Give Bev Gallagher 14 years and she might just be back in the political mix.
Speaking of the federal case, Murray, a blue-collar populist politician who has promised to clean up the school board, has been interviewed by the feds and says she did so without a lawyer. "If you'd done nothing wrong, why would you need to lawyer up?" she asked rhetorically.
What follows is an account of Bograkos' sentencing that appeared in the Miami Herald about Bograkos' case:
Bograkos admitted his sin: Conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Postal Service.
He got mixed up in an $8.5 million fraud scheme that involved two bulk-mail postal employees and seven Broward businessmen. It happened in a U.S. Post Office bulk-mail headquarters in Hollywood.
The businessmen paid cash bribes or gifts -- tickets to Miami Heat, Miami Dolphins or University of Miami football games -- to the post office workers in exchange for lower rates on large masses of mail.
The feds say they caught Bograkos on undercover video handing money to postal employees.
Here's how it worked: After Bograkos accepted cash from clients to ship mail, he made the payoff and sharply understated the size of his mailing. The employees returned the favor with a steep discount on postage.
For instance, Bograkos in 1986 deposited 1,861 pieces of mail for a doctor but reported just 300. In another case four years later, he deposited 4,027 pieces of mail for a business but reported just 218.
He and the postal workers split the cash that was supposed to go for postage, $205,000 in all.