Four suppliers to PA Liquor Board to pay over $9 million in monetary penalties

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HARRISBURG, Pa. — Four state suppliers to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) will pay over $9 million in monetary penalties for their involvement in providing things of value to board officials.

The companies — in a non-prosecution agreement with the government — also agreed to implement compliance measures and avoid similar engagements in the future, according to the announcement made by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

United States Attorney Bruce Brandler says the four vendors are Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits of Pennsylvania, LLC, Breakthru Beverage Pennsylvania, LLC, White Rock Distillieries, LLC and Pio Imports, LLC.

“Although the history between these organizations and the PLCB is clearly disturbing, it is in the interests of justice to expose this history and hold the organizations responsible,” Brandler adds in the release. “The monetary penalties imposed on these successor organizations more than disgorges the financial benefits received and discourages future misconduct by those in the industry.”

Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits of Pennsylvania will pay $5 million, Breakthru Beverage Pennsylvania  and White Rock Distilleries will pay $2 million each and Pio Imports will pay $200,000.

The payouts are being made in response to the companies’ employees actions, including but not limited to providing cash, all-expenses paid trips, tickets to shows and sporting events and gift cards to PLCB officials.

The release adds that the former Director of the Marketing for the board, James Short, entered a guilty plea to honest services fraud in September 2015. The charges are based off of Short receiving benefits from White Rock and Capital Wine and Spirits over a ten-year period, according to the release.

The liquor control board issued this statement regarding the non-prosecution agreements reached:

“The PLCB has been fully cooperative with the U.S. Attorney’s investigations over the last two years, and these companies’ admissions of unethical behavior occurring from 2000 to 2012 are a matter the PLCB is taking very seriously. The Board has called senior leadership of each the three companies still supplying wines and spirits to Pennsylvania into PLCB headquarters in the immediate future to discuss the settlements and determine how the agency and these suppliers can move forward preserving the highest ethical standards.

“Following investigations into former PLCB employees who violated state ethics standards, in 2014 the PLCB clarified and reissued its employee code of conduct and developed a new and separate code of conduct for wine and spirits vendors. Although we already had one of the strictest employee conduct codes in Pennsylvania state government, the unethical actions of a few cast a temporary shadow over the agency. As a result, the PLCB has embraced the opportunity to regularly remind employees of their ethical obligations and foster a culture of awareness and the highest standards of integrity among its employees and suppliers.

“The Board is disappointed at the action of all parties involved, who violated the trust of the agency and Pennsylvanians.”

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