Report: Feds Investigate Liquor Control Board Officials

Ethics Commission already found members accepted gifts, trips from vendors.

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A federal grand jury is investigating the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports this morning.

Sources said the investigation is looking at issues raised by the state Ethics Commission, which found four former LCB officials violated the Ethics Act and state Liquor Code when they accepted gifts and lavish trips from liquor vendors and failed to disclose them on financial reports. Those sources said the grand jury’s investigation appears to be looking at issues and individuals beyond those identified by the commission as well.

A significant pattern of wrongdoing or potential violations that cross state lines could prompt federal officials to look into the case, he said. Earlier this year, the Ethics Commission found the former top-ranking LCB officials guilty of taking all-expense paid trips to Florida and California, golf outings across Pennsylvania, high-end merchandise and fancy meals, all on the dime of executives and sales people at national wine and spirits companies.

Records from the Ethics Commission investigation were turned over to prosecutors and the grand jury, the paper reported.

Four members of the PLCB quit the agency earlier this year before the state Ethics Commission report on the gifts and trips was made public. They were Matthew Schwenk, the PLCB’s former director of product selection; former marketing director James H. Short Jr.; former Liquor Control Board chairman P.J. Stapleton III; and former CEO Joe Conti. The four were collectively fined $23,000. As part of its findings, the Ethics Commission did not recommend any charges be filed against the men.

The paper added: “Officials from three vendors — Southern Wine & Spirits, Capital Wine & Spirits and Allied Beverage Group — provided the majority of the gifts and trips to LCB employees.” They account for about a third of the sales made through Pennsylvania’s state-owned liquor stores.

No word on a timeline for the grand jury’s determinations.