When federal prosecutors indicted then-State Senator Ray Musto last November, the 81 year old seemed ready to fight.
“I’m going to trial,” said Musto. “I want to be heard at the trial.”
But evidence collected and testimony from a man believed to be developer Rob Mericle, show Musto quick to remind how much that company needed the lawmaker’s help in winning big money projects.
Testimony shows the company rewarding Musto with annual Christmas baskets.
One included a DVD player and an NFL game ball.
Another had four to six bottles of wine and a gift certificate for Maine lobster.
Still another year brought cheer in the form of a GPS and satellite radio.
“It clearly appears that he has used his position consistently, systematically to extract value as a public servant,” said government reform activist Eric Epstein of Rockthecapital.com.
Court filings show Musto asking the company believed to be Mericle’s to renovate a Pittston Township office in 2005 .
The initial price was $35,000, but testimony reveals Musto was unhappy with rising costs, and how it might look if it appeared the lawmaker got a break on the final price.
The solution, according to court papers, happened when Musto wrote a check for $48,000, apparently to make the deal look legitimate. In return, court papers show Musto was then handed an envelope filled with $25,000 in cash.
The public corruption probe focused on Musto last April, evidenced by a raid on his property.
The representative of the company claiming it bribed Musto wore a wire to record a conversation with Musto expressing fears of a paper trail leading federal investigators to that money stuffed envelope.
Company representative: “The $25,000 .”
Musto: “There’s nothing there at all.”
Representative: “There’s nothing.”
Musto: “It never happened.”
Representative: “ You didn’t deposit it. There’s no deposit.”
Musto: “There’s none.”
“A lot of people are taken aback because he looks like a congenial grandfather figure,” added Eric Epstein. “And most con men don’t strike you as people who would take advantage of you.”
The next step will be for a judge to rule if all of this can be admitted as evidence against the former state senator.
No trial date has been set.