Iowa pol in security co. extortion case
DES MOINES, Iowa--In a case that has involved accusations of trumped-up and politically motivated charges, a state senator is getting ready to stand trial this month for allegedly attempting to extort money from Reid Shultz, owner of alarm company Security Plus Inc.
Sen. Matthew McCoy (D-Des Moines) was charged by a federal grand jury, on March 14, with using his position as a state senator to attempt to extort $100 for each installation of Quiet Care, a wireless home monitoring system for senior citizens, from Shultz's employee Tom Vasquez.
"The indictment alleges that McCoy attempted to induce payments from Vasquez [and that] McCoy threatened to return to the state Medicaid office and ensure that Security Plus would not be a Medicaid vendor if payments were not made to him," according to a statement from the Iowa U.S. Attorney's office. In addition, the indictment said that McCoy received $2,000 in payments, which were represented to be from Security Plus, but were, in fact supplied by the FBI as part of an undercover operation.
Shultz, who said he is a small ADT dealer who has been in business for seven years, declined to comment on the case.
State legislators in Iowa serve part time and typically hold other jobs outside of the Legislature. McCoy, who has served two terms in the Iowa House and three in the Senate, also works as vice president of community development for the Downtown Development Corporation in Des Moines. McCoy did not return two calls from Security Systems News before press time.
However, several press accounts say that McCoy was working with Security Plus in his capacity as vice president of the community development group to help them secure work with the state. Further, press accounts say McCoy secured an approval from the state Senate to engage in this work.
Iowa Democrats and political pundits have questioned the timing of the indictment, which came in March at the height of revelations in Washington of the firing of several of U.S. attorneys by former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez's office, allegedly for their failure to indict Democrats within their states.
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa is Matthew Whitaker, a socially conservative Republican who ran unsuccessfully for state treasurer in 2002. He was appointed to his current post by President Bush in 2004. When asked for comment, Whitaker's office referred Security Systems News to the indictment and said further comment was prohibited by regulations.
McCoy, an openly gay man whose sexual orientation was revealed by a Republican colleague in 2003, is quoted in press reports as saying the charges are politically motivated. The Polk County Democrats passed a resolution in support of McCoy in March saying, "the indictment is brought on by a highly partisan Justice Department under questionable circumstances and using questionable methods of collecting evidence." In August, Betty Brim-Hunter, vice chair of the Polk County Democrats called this indictment "typical of the Bush Administration," and said local Democrats continue to support McCoy, "who is my senator and who's done an outstanding job for the south side of Des Moines."
If convicted, McCoy faces 20 years of prison, a $250,000 fine or both.