Nathaniel Oaks, newly resigned Baltimore senator, pleads guilty to wire fraud

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Image via broadcast from WBAL-TV.

Nathaniel Oaks, who officially resigned Thursday morning as senator for Baltimore’s 41st district, has pleaded guilty to two federal corruption charges.

The Sun and WBAL-TV report Oaks, 71, has pleaded guilty in federal court to two counts of wire fraud. Federal court records show he entered his plea this morning.

Oaks was indicted near the end of the 2017 General Assembly Session on nine charges in all, including bribery and wire fraud, after federal investigators said he took $15,000 in cash from an informant posing as a businessman. The informant offered Oaks the money in exchange for political favors. A plea agreement lays out the timeline: Oaks accepted three payment’s of $5,000 in May, July and September of 2016.

In January 2017, two federal agents met with Oaks in a hotel room in downtown Baltimore–Oaks thought he was meeting with the “businessman”–and informed him they’d investigating him for two years, and that his confidant was really an FBI agent. But instead of arresting him, they cut him a deal to cooperate and help them with another investigation. Oaks agreed.

However, his plea agreement says the senator turned on them two months later, when tipped off the target of that probe at a bar on St. Patrick’s Day (and again in a government building hallway) in Annapolis. As a result, they slapped on an additional obstruction of justice charge on Oaks in November 2017.

Oaks had previously pleaded not guilty to his charges. The case was set to go to trial this August.

Last night, Oaks revealed to WOLB radio that he would resign his post as state senator. In a resignation letter to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, shared by reporters on Twitter this morning, Oaks said he was stepping down “to eliminate all clouds that have hovered over the 2018 Legislative Session.”

“It is with deep regret, respect, and my love for Baltimore City, the Maryland General Assembly, its leadership, my legislative colleagues and my constituents in the 41st District that I resign my position as State Senator,” he wrote.

Oaks had already been stripped of all committee assignments, and his colleagues in Annapolis had been pressuring him for months to step down.

This actually isn’t the first time Oaks has been forced to resign. The career politician served as a member of the House of Delegates from 1983 to 1989, but forfeited his post after being convicted of theft charges. He was subsequently re-elected to the same delegate seat in 1994, and held it for 22 years before Gov. Larry Hogan promoted him last year to a state senate seat left vacant by retired Sen. Lisa Gladden.

Oaks is facing up to 20 years for each count of wire fraud. He’s due for sentencing July 17.

This story has been updated with details from Oaks’ plea agreement.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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