Bounced Check Points To Straw Donor
A Waterbury bank manager who bounced a $2,500 check to Chris Donovan’s campaign in April appears to be one of the people who served as a straw donor in the corruption investigation. The bank manager, Dana M. Graziano, whose potential involvement was first reported by the Waterbury Republican American, is no longer employed at CitiFinancial.
According to campaign finance records, Graziano, formerly the branch manager at CitiFinancial’s Waterbury branch, donated a $2,500 check on April 11 to the Donovan campaign. Records show that there were insufficient funds available, and campaign officials listed a new transaction removing $2,500 from the fund under Graziano’s name on April 19. The check had bounced.
A federal affidavit outlining the case against Robert Braddock Jr., Donovan’s recently fired campaign finance director, details a recorded phone conversation between two co-conspirators arranging to have cash — secretly provided by the FBI as part of a sting operation —laundered through straw donors.
During the operation, an undercover FBI agent posing as an investor in roll-your-own cigarette shops twice provided conspirators with $10,000 with an understanding they would use Donovan’s influence to kill a bill imposing new fees on the tobacco shops. The conspirators allegedly handed the cash over to straw donors who wrote checks to the campaign. The practice illegally hides the source of the money.
During phone conversation recorded April 23, the conspirators learned that one of the checks funneled to the Donovan campaign had bounced, according to the affidavit.
“Hey, ah… one a the, ah, checks, ah, that we got from you the other day… last week… ah, bounced,” an individual described as “Co-Conspirator 3” said.
The two conspirators arranged to have the donor write a replacement check on April 24. According to campaign finance records, Graziano wrote another check for $2,500 to the Donovan campaign on April 24.
Reached by telephone Wednesday, a CitiFinancial employee who would only identify herself as “Mary” said Graziano was no longer employed by the bank. Pressed for more information, the woman hung up.
Graziano did not return phone messages left at her Waterbury home. But a Facebook account registered to Dana Graziano also suggests a connection with another player in the federal investigation. On the website, she’s friends with Ray Soucy, the correction officer widely believed to be the individual authorities refer to as “Co-Conspirator 1” in the arrest affidavit.
According to the affidavit, conspirators used four straw donors to write checks to the campaign. Investigators believed one of the donors to be an associate of “Co-Conspirator 1.”
Donovan’s campaign retained former U.S. Attorney Stanley Twardy to audit the 8,500 donations made to the campaign to ensure there were no errors or omissions.
Tom Swan, Donovan’s campaign manager, said it will hand over the investigation to the federal government once it’s completed.