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Published: Wednesday, 7/12/2006

Feds accuse indicted broker of attempted intimidation

BY JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
Gasper Gasper
KIICHIRO SATO / AP Enlarge

COLUMBUS - Federal prosecutors have accused an indicted investment broker of trying to "intimidate" Terrence Gasper, the former chief financial officer of the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, by mailing him a card saying a Roman Catholic Mass would be held in his honor.

Michael W. Lewis sent the card, postmarked June 23, to Gasper's home in suburban Columbus - four days after Mr. Lewis was arraigned in federal court on felony charges that he and fellow broker Daniel P. O'Neil bribed Gasper in exchange for getting and keeping a piece of the bureau's business.

Gasper pleaded guilty to corruption charges on June 7 in federal court in Akron and Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

Gasper admitted that he traded bureau investment business for personal gain, including the use of an oceanfront condominium and boat slip in the Florida Keys from Mr. Lewis and Mr. O'Neil and $25,000 from Republican fund-raiser Tom Noe.

Judges delayed sentencing until Gasper concludes his cooperation with the ongoing investigation into the Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

Federal prosecutors said that Mr. Lewis, who pleaded not guilty and was released on $50,000 bond, possibly violated a condition of his release by contacting Gasper, a potential witness in his trial.

Referring to the card Mr. Lewis sent to Gasper, assistant U.S. Attorneys Benita Pearson and Robert Corts wrote: "The most innocent comment to be made about this inappropriate communication is that it was not accompanied by the typical black rose."

The conditions of Mr. Lewis' release say he will avoid "all contact, directly or indirectly, with any persons who are or may become a victim or potential witness in the subject investigation or prosecution."

Judge David Dowd, Jr., yesterday received a copy of the card, a request he made before deciding whether to revoke Mr. Lewis' bond.

Roger Synenberg, the former chairman of the Cuyahoga County GOP who is Mr. Lewis' attorney, said Mr. Lewis acknowledges sending the card to Gasper.

Mr. Lewis "had no malice and did not understand that this act of kindness may be considered a violation of the terms of his supervised release,'' Mr. Synenberg wrote in court documents.

Mr. Synenberg wrote that Mr. Lewis, 71, and Gasper have been friends for 20 years. "Because Mr. Gasper is going through a difficult time, Mr. Lewis arranged for a Mass to be said in Mr. Gasper's honor. The card that was sent to Mr. Gasper was merely a Mass card stating when and where a Mass was to be said in Gasper's honor,'' he wrote.

Mr. Synenberg said Mr. Lewis "now understands that he is to have absolutely no contact with any potential witness in his case." But federal prosecutors scoffed at that explanation.

Gasper received the card four days after Mr. Lewis' indictment - not 20 days earlier when Gasper was charged, wrote Ms. Pearson and Mr. Corts, the assistant U.S. attorneys, in documents filed with the court.

"Lewis, instead, waited and reached out to Gasper right after his own indictment because Lewis is concerned that his own corrupt behavior is now under scrutiny not, as Lewis states because 'Gasper is going through a difficult time,' " Ms. Pearson and Mr. Corts wrote.

Mr. Lewis makes reference to Gasper and his family on the inside of the Mass card, which does not provide a time or place at which a Mass would be said for Gasper or his family members, federal prosecutors said.

"Loudly and clearly, however, the card does communicate to Gasper that Lewis knows where he lives and knows his family members," Ms. Pearson and Mr. Corts wrote.

Contact James Drew at:

jdrew@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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