A woman who was elected four times to statewide office in Pennsylvania was sentenced Tuesday to three years on probation for lying to the FBI about accepting $675,000 from an investment adviser who had reaped tens of millions in fees through Treasury Department business.
Barbara Hafer, a Republican when she was twice elected as Pennsylvania's auditor general and then twice as treasurer, avoided jail time but was fined $50,000 and ordered to perform 500 hours of community service.
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"I did it, that was wrong, and I'm sorry for it," Hafer told U.S. District Judge John Jones, sobbing as she asked him to consider her entire career. "I'm ashamed, I'm heartsick over the situation."
The 74-year-old pleaded guilty in June to deceiving federal investigators about whether the adviser, Richard Ireland, had funneled the money to her to help her start a consulting firm after she'd left office.
Jones said he considers her offense to be an isolated aberration and "a fit of bad judgment."
"It doesn't take a large leap to figure out what went wrong," Jones said. "I believe that you feared that disclosing your relationship with Mr. Ireland after you left office might demonstrate something that at the worst was illegal and at best was unseemly."
Her attorney argued that the crime for which Hafer pleaded guilty did not enrich her financially. The defense lawyer previously said Hafer did not dispute she broke the law and recognized how her actions caused distress to her family, friends and public supporters.
The defense filing emphasized her "really quite inspiring life," including work as a public health nurse in the early 1970s, philanthropic efforts that continue, and activism on behalf of "women and the oppressed."
Prosecutors said that when Hafer met with agents, her lawyer was with her and she knew the FBI was investigating the Treasury Department.
"During the interview, federal authorities took efforts to refresh her recollection and allow her to rethink her answers," the U.S. attorney's office wrote. "Thus, as evidenced by her guilty plea, this was a willful decision and one in which she had adequate time to deliberate upon."
During her guilty plea hearing, prosecutors said they had tape of a conversation in which Ireland told another former Pennsylvania state treasurer, Rob McCord, that he had "taken care of" Hafer after she left office. Jones said that recording prompted the investigation into Hafer.
Prosecutors have said that while Hafer was treasurer, companies tied to Ireland collected tens of millions in fees between 2001 and 2004. Ireland was a major campaign donor to Hafer during those years. Hafer later became a Democrat. She lives in Indiana, Pennsylvania.
McCord, a Democrat, resigned from office two years ago, then pleaded guilty to attempted extortion in a campaign finance-related case. He has not been sentenced, although last week the judge laid out a schedule to consider McCord's challenge to a presentence report.
Criminal charges against Ireland were thrown out by Jones earlier this year, when the judge ruled during trial that prosecutors failed to prove Ireland's campaign contributions or help in McCord's private business affairs were aimed at getting official favors.