AKRON - Terrence Gasper testified that investment brokers Michael W. Lewis and Daniel P. O'Neil summoned him to a Cleveland-area hotel room.
Two weeks earlier, in October, 2004, Gasper had lost his job as chief financial officer of the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation because the bureau had lost $215 million in a Bermuda-based hedge fund.
As they sat at a table in the hotel room, Mr. O'Neil had a question, Gasper said.
"He asked me if I was wearing a wire; I said I had not and did not," Gasper testified in federal court yesterday at the trial of Mr. Lewis and Mr. O'Neil.
The two investment brokers have pleaded not guilty to charges they violated federal law by conspiring to bribe Gasper by buying an Islamorada, Fla., condo and boat slip for Gasper's use.
Gasper said he explained to Mr. O'Neil and Mr. Lewis what had gone wrong with the hedge fund managed by Pittsburgh-based MDL Capital Management.
Mr. O'Neil, according to Gasper, became agitated.
"If there's something going on with someone else, we're going to cut you loose," Mr. O'Neil said, according to Gasper's testimony yesterday.
Gasper said he thought he would lose use of the Florida Keys condo that he said Mr. O'Neil and Mr. Lewis bought him in exchange for him steering bureau investment business to them.
Gasper said he explained that MDL had violated the investment agreement with the bureau, increasing the risk 18 times greater than the deal allowed.
Gasper said Mr. O'Neil again became "agitated" and then asked, "Are we on the same page?" Gasper said he replied that if investigators started asking questions about the Florida Keys condo, the story he would tell is that Mr. Lewis and Mr. O'Neil bought it, he had no ownership, and he paid to use it.
"Don't forget that memory thing," O'Neil added, according to Gasper's testimony.
Gasper said he and Mr. Lewis had discussed that if investigators ever asked questions about the condo, Gasper would say he suffered short-term memory loss after a 2004 stroke and he couldn't recall details.
Federal prosecutors have alleged that Mr. O'Neil and Mr. Lewis made millions of dollars by bribing Gasper, who steered business to the firms that the two men worked for since 1997.
Attorneys representing Mr. O'Neil, who handled U.S. Sen. George Voinovich's personal finances when he left the governor's office in 1999, and Mr. Lewis have called Gasper a "liar and a manipulator."
Under cross-examination yesterday, Bill Beyer, the attorney representing Mr. Lewis, asked Gasper about a 1997 internal investigation at the bureau into whether Gasper had helped steer business to firms including Roney & Co,. which employed Mr. Lewis and Mr. O'Neil.
Gasper replied that he had received "political pressure" from Governor Voinovich's office. "I would love to expand on where it came from," Gasper said, but Mr. Beyer didn't ask for a name.
In a follow-up, assistant U.S. Attorney Benita Pearson asked if "political pressure had anything to do with your side deal" with Mr. Lewis and Mr. O'Neil. Gasper said it did not. Ms. Pearson then did not ask for the name of the "political person" in the governor's office.
In 1996, Paul Mifsud, the late chief of staff to Mr. Voinovich, and Gasper successfully urged Republican legislators to add the bureau to a bill that gave the state pension systems greater flexibility in how they could invest their funds. Mr. Voinovich signed the bill into law.
Gasper acknowledged that he accepted a $25,000 investment in 2001 from a bureau fund manager in the name of his then-girlfriend, Betsy Ratcliff. Authorities have identified that fund manager as Tom Noe.
Attorneys representing Mr. Lewis and Mr. O'Neil asked Gasper a few times if his testimony would lead to a lesser sentence.
Gasper told the jury he anticipates "several years of incarceration."
"From my perspective, my life is pretty much over," he said.
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