A decorated Waterbury police detective and owner of a roll-your-own tobacco store was sentenced to 26 months in prison Wednesday for trying to kill a state tobacco tax by bribing former state House Speaker and congressional candidate Christopher Donovan.
Former detective George Tirado, who was co-owner of a tobacco business, argued that the 700 or more of hours he volunteered yearly to chartable and youth activities in the Waterbury area merited a sentence of house arrest and probation.
U.S. District Judge Janet B. Arterton ordered a prison sentence after long arguments over two days by federal prosecutors and Tirado’s lawyers.
Tirado, 36, previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to make false statements to the Federal Elections Commission and to impede the FEC’s enforcement of federal campaign finance laws. He was forced to resign from his police job when he pleaded guilty.
Tirado and others were accused of being part of the conspiracy to pump money into Donovan’s campaign in exchange for promises from Donovan aides that they would work to kill a bill that would have taxed roll-your-own cigarette shops.
Customers at roll-your-own shops pay a fee to use store equipment to manufacture their own cigarettes. The shop owners opposed state tax legislation that would have cost them their price advantage compared to traditional tobacco retailers.
According to the U.S. attorney’s office, Tirado and Paul Rogers co-owned Smoke House Tobacco, a roll-your-own smoke shop with two locations in Waterbury, and conspired to direct contributions into Donovan’s campaign. The conspirators recruited multiple individuals to serve as conduit contributors, which means they allowed checks to be written in their names to the campaign and were reimbursed with cash, concealing the participation of roll-your-own shop owners.
Story by Edmund Mahony, Hartford Courant