Maryland Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller speaks to reporters about Sen. Nathaniel Oaks and the ethics law legislation unanimously passed in the Senate on April 7. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Maryland Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller speaks to reporters about Sen. Nathaniel Oaks and the ethics law legislation unanimously passed in the Senate on April 7. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

ANNAPOLIS — The same day Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller read amendments to an ethics law that was unanimously approved, a colleague was charged Friday for accepting nearly $11,000 to help get a housing project approved.

According to a criminal complaint from the U.S. District attorney’s office, Sen. Nathaniel Thomas Oaks, 70, of Baltimore, used his position to assist a minority business for a state Department of Housing and Urban Development project in the city.

Maryland state Sen. Nathaniel T. Oaks (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Oaks allegedly conducted the acts last year when he used official letterhead to support the project, but the complaint states he made false statements about the project to a confidential informant. For his assistance, he received $10,300.

The complaint states Oaks drafted a bill and filed a bond with the state Department of Legislative Services to request a $250,000 bond toward the project. The informant gave Oaks $5,000 cash.

During a recorded March 16, 2016, conversation between Oaks and the informant, Oaks said he had “chewing gun in his mouth,” a coded phrase to convey not to openly discuss getting paid, according to the affidavit.

Oaks, who was elected to represent Baltimore’s 41st District as a state delegate in 1983, was convicted in Baltimore in 1988 of theft and misconduct in office for stealing thousands of dollars from his re-election fund. He received a five-year suspended sentence and was ordered to perform 500 hours of community service, pay a $1,000 fine and serve a three-year probation.

Even though he lost his delegate seat in early 1989, he was elected in 1994 as a state senator, serving until this year.

Oaks became the third state lawmaker charged this year in connection to bribery and conspiracy scandals.

Former Del. William A. Campos, 42, of Hyattsville, entered a plea agreement in January after he received up to $24,000 from two Prince George’s County business owners in exchange for $325,000 in grant money to entities controlled by those merchants.

Campos’s charges occurred when he served on the county council. He was elected as a delegate in 2014 but abruptly resigned in September 2015.

Michael L. Vaughn, 59, of Bowie, made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt last month after being charged for conspiracy. He is accused of receiving  $13,000 in cash from April 2015 to April 2016 to help pass liquor legislation.

After the Senate adjourned Friday, Miller (D-District 27) of Clinton told reporters Oaks visited his office Friday before the Senate convened and decided to turn himself in to authorities.

“He and his staff left and went to turn himself in around 12 o’clock,” Miller said. “We’ve had this occurrence in Prince George’s County. … People who hold public office have to be held to a higher standard than everybody else. They’re the ones making the laws. They can’t be the lawbreaker.”

Oaks had an initial court appearance Friday at 4 p.m. Friday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. If convicted of wire services fraud, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

One of the main amendments to the ethics bills, titled “Public Integrity Act,” would require state officials convicted of an offense to pay a $10,00 fine. The previous amount was designated at $1,000.

Sen. Jim Rosapepe (D-District 21), who represents portions of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties, declined to comment after the session.

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Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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