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Pennsylvania

Year after guilty plea, no word on sentencing for former Pennsylvania LCB official

| Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, 10:33 p.m.
James H. Short Jr., former director of marketing for the PLCB. (Submitted photo)
James H. Short Jr., former director of marketing for the PLCB. (Submitted photo)

A year after pleading guilty to accepting bribes from alcohol vendors he regulated, James Short, the state Liquor Control Board's former director of marketing, has yet to be sentenced.

Sources close to the investigation say the federal probe is ongoing, but prosecutors are remaining tight-lipped as to when or whether more charges are coming and when Short will be sentenced.

“I think it's a definite sign he's cooperating,” said George Parry, a Philadelphia attorney and former federal prosecutor who is not associated with the case.

“They are going to delay sentencing until (Short) has fulfilled his end of the bargain, and probably they'll hold it over his head until after he testifies in any trials that may result from the information he gives,” Parry said.

Short, 51, pleaded guilty to one count of fraud last September for running a decadelong scheme to defraud Pennsylvania residents and the state by soliciting and concealing kickbacks from alcohol vendors doing business with the agency. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Short's attorney, Christopher Hall, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael A. Consiglio declined to comment on the case.

The federal investigation stems from a multi-year probe by the state Ethics Commission that ultimately snared five former LCB officials for taking lavish dinners, golf outings, all-expense paid trips and other gifts from alcohol vendors seeking favorable treatment for their products.

Short, for example, was flown by private jet to Bonita Springs, Fla., for a golf vacation with representatives for Pinnacle vodkas, which were approved for sale in state stores six weeks after the trip, documents show.

Rob Caruso, executive director of the Ethics Commission, said federal investigators subpoenaed the commission's records in the LCB cases. Since then, the probe has gone quiet.

“I have not been in contact with the U.S. attorney or the FBI almost since the matter was referred over there,” Caruso said.

Attorneys representing other former LCB officials say they haven't been contacted.

Parry said he would typically expect to see a case moving faster than this one has so far, but added, “I don't know what kind of challenges they're up against in this case.”

“None of these cases comes right out of a cookie cutter,” Parry said.

In the meantime, Short continues to collect his $52,700-a-year pension, earned during his 29 years with the LCB. The State Employees Retirement System is reviewing whether his federal plea will force him to forfeit his state pension, said spokeswoman Pam Hile.

Short's LinkedIn profile shows he took a job in March 2014, immediately after leaving the LCB, as a district sales manager for Republic National Distributing Company in Richmond, Va.

Kari Andren is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-850-2856 or kandren@tribweb.com.

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