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Former Maine Developer Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Fraud

An entrepreneur and influential former Portland, Maine, developer, Michael A. Liberty, is facing potential prison time after pleading guilty to making fraudulent donations during the 2012 presidential campaign.

Liberty, a resident of Windermere, Fla., was a major player in the Portland area's development scene and is also co-founder of the mobile payment company Mozido. According to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Portland, Liberty pleaded guilty to contributing $22,500 to a presidential campaign between May and June 2011 through nine employees, associates or family members.

Liberty, 56, paid for the contributions himself. Under federal law in 2011, individual contributions to presidential campaigns were capped at $2,500 per election.

Court documents do not specify which presidential campaign received the donations and Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Clark declined to comment. However, campaign finance disclosure reports show that Liberty contributed $2,500 in both 2011 and 2012 to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, both times listing Portland-based Katahdin Corp. as his employer.

Liberty also contributed $10,000 to the Maine Republican Party in 2012 and $2,500 to U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent, that same year.

An attorney for Liberty said the businessman acknowledged the violations.

"Michael Liberty has cooperated with the government in this matter, which involved incidents that occurred six years ago," said Richard Zack, a former federal fraud prosecutor now working at the Philadelphia firm Pepper Hamilton. "He has accepted responsibility for his conduct and wishes to move on with his life."

A Maine native who made his initial fortune in real estate, Liberty is no stranger to controversy.

During the 1980s, he developed two office towers at 100 Middle St. and the Chandler's Wharf waterfront condominiums in Portland. His Liberty Group and the subsidiary American Housing Preservation Corp. also built numerous affordable housing developments for elderly and low-income residents.

But a large project he proposed on the Portland waterfront prompted a referendum that led to a ban on non-marine uses of the waterfront. The city relaxed that rule only recently.

Liberty has also been a significant political donor over the years, giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to candidates and committees. Although most of his recent donations have gone to Republicans, Liberty has financially supported candidates from both major parties in the past.

During the 2015 elections, Liberty donated $5,400 — $2,700 for both the primary and general elections — to Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin's successful bid for a second term in Congress. A year earlier, he donated nearly $100,000 to a political action committee working to elect Michael Edes as Cumberland County sheriff during Edes' Democratic primary against Sheriff Kevin Joyce.

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