When developer Robert Scinto entered a guilty plea in federal court in Bridgeport Thursday it changed the entire complexion of the government’s public corruption probe of Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti.
What appeared to be a thin case against Lauretti now provides the government a witness that can seemingly testify about the cash and benefits provided the mayor, according to the plea agreement and information that the government released. What isn’t clear yet is how the government plans to link (quid pro quo) those benefits to a Scinto development deal, and what other witnesses will assist the case.
The next weeks and months will be stressful for both Scinto and Lauretti, Scinto providing details of his relationship with Lauretti to the government and the mayor trying to figure out how he’ll defend this if he’s charged, something that appears more likely given Scinto’s plea. The way the government charged the case I don’t see Scinto doing any prison time if he provides full cooperation to the government. His charge applies to a false statement he gave FBI agents regarding benefits to city officials. This kind of charge is low under federal sentencing guidelines which a judge uses to determine a sentence. Guidelines, once mandatory, are now advisory. Ironically, Scinto was once the landlord to the local field office of the FBI which leases space at 1000 Lafayette Boulevard, a commercial building Scinto developed more than 20 years ago.
Scinto has done many good things for regional arts and social service organizations, including Bridgeport where he made his start. His success came as a result of hard work and development insight.
Still, this is a heavy fall for a successful developer who has spoken openly through the years about his distaste for the landuse regulatory process in Bridgeport. Scinto had a low tolerance for Bridgeport politics and pulled away from the city. Shelton, he claimed, was more business friendly.
It will not be easy, but Scinto can move on from this and regain regional development respect. As for Lauretti, who has been living in denial regarding the federal investigation, he better get himself a damn good lawyer.
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