Maryland lobbyist seeks to overturn mail-fraud convictions

Maryland lobbyist Bruce Bereano’s professional reputation has been stained with scarlet letters, spelling out “e-x-c-o-n,” since his November 1994 convictions for seven counts of mail fraud. On April 12—the day after this year’s General Assembly session ended, during which Bereano boasted 35 clients, among them some of the heaviest hitting interests in the state—he started the process of trying to get those letters erased by having his convictions overturned in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.

What Bereano filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland, where his convictions still stand, is called a petition for a writ of coram nobis. Former Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel successfully used the same process in a 1987 bid to overturn his 1977 convictions on 17 counts of mail fraud and one racketeering count.

Mandel’s petition was built on a then-recent Supreme Court ruling that the mail-fraud statute could not be used in cases where the scheme did not involve bribery and the like, but instead deprived citizens only of “honest services.” The U.S. Congress responded by putting an honest-services provision in the mail-fraud statute, and that formed the basis of Bereano’s convictions. But last year, in Skilling v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled that the honest-services statute was unconstitutional—and thus, Bereano is seeking to have his convictions overturned, and the return, with interest, of the $30,000 fine he paid.

Bereano’s attorneys in the coram nobis filing, Timothy Maloney and Matthew Bryant, did not immediately return phone calls for comment. But Bereano did, saying the filing is “something I’ve been working on,” and adding, “Since the Supreme Court decision, there has been a lot of litigation” over the Skilling ruling—including a case in Florida in which a judge issued a writ overturning a case based on Skilling. As for whether Bereano, as Mandel did after his convictions were overturned, would seek to have his law license restored if his petition succeeds, he says, “I’m not getting into a discussion of that,” adding, “Just stick to what was filed. The papers speak for themselves.” 

The long-ago criminal case against Bereano was prosecuted by former Assistant U.S. Attorney Dale Kelberman, the office’s erstwhile chief white-collar crime prosecutor who now represents high-profile defendants, including in public-corruption cases. Attempts to reach Kelberman for comment were unsuccessful. Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesperson Marcia Murphy says that while "we appreciate the opportunity . . . we do not have a comment on Mr. Bereano's coram nobis."

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