Composite photo. Left, In this 2019 photo from the Giant Center in Hershey, Lancaster County Congressman Lloyd Smucker shakes hands with then-President Donald Trump during a campaign rally. (Chris Knight LNP | LancasterOnline) Right: In this 2006 photo, Adam Kidan arrives at the federal courthouse in Miami for sentencing on conspiracy and fraud charges. (AP Photo)
Smucker & the ex-con: Relationship includes travel, nearly $250,000 in campaign cash and donations
By Brett Sholtis/LNP | LancasterOnline
This story is published in partnership with our sister newsroom LNP | LancasterOnline.
April 2022 was a typically busy month for U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker.
He toured Four Seasons Produce in Ephrata. He appeared with U.S. Senate candidate Mehmet Oz at a Lancaster County construction business. He learned how to hand-roll pretzels for National Pretzel Day.
Smucker’s staff documented each of those events on social media.
One event Smucker didn’t mention, though, was his meeting with Adam Kidan, a former business partner of disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff who has served time in federal prison for fraud and conspiracy and has now emerged as a major political donor and supporter of Lancaster County’s congressman.
Smucker’s meeting with Kidan, at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, wasn’t their first.
Since 2021, Smucker has spent time with Kidan and his partner, Cristiani de Fatima Pereira, on at least five occasions, several far from his southcentral Pennsylvania district, including at Napa Valley wineries in California and at events in Texas and Florida.
Kidan, 59, is Smucker’s second-largest individual political donor, having given committees that support the lawmaker’s re-election nearly $250,000 in direct or in-kind contributions since he took office, an analysis of campaign finance records shows. (The largest donor to committees supporting Smucker is Wenger Group Executive Chairman of the Board F. Barry Shaw, who donated $270,700.)
Kidan also said he plays a central role in the congressman’s fundraising efforts, as a member of Smucker’s “steering committee.”
Kidan, a leader in the temporary-staffing industry, said in an interview with LNP | LancasterOnline that he supports Smucker because the four-term congressman is a businessman whose politics support small businesses.
“He knows how to hire labor,” Kidan said. “He’s one of the few people in Congress who actually knows how staffing works. I think he’s a friend.”
The significant financial support Kidan has given to Smucker, though, appears to have opened the door to a level of access, and potential influence, that most constituents of the 11th Congressional District don’t have.
“People see these things, and even if they are not necessarily illegal, people feel their voice is heard less than a person who is able to go on these sorts of lavish trips,” said Danielle Caputo, legal counsel for ethics at political reform group Campaign Legal Center. “That definitely can erode public trust.”
Smucker declined requests to talk for this story. But his campaign manager, Jenna Geesey, said the steering committee is a fundraising initiative, and includes donors across the district who are business and community leaders.
She did not confirm whether Kidan, a former Manheim Township resident who now lives in South Florida, is part of it. But she said Kidan’s criminal record is a thing of the past.
“Adam Kidan paid his debt to society and has been a great supporter of conservative causes and philanthropy in Lancaster County for many years,” Geesey said. “America is the land of second chances, and Congressman Smucker greatly respects Adam’s honesty and accountability for his actions.”
Who is Adam Kidan?
Originally from New York, Kidan graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 1989, according to New York State Office of Court Administration records. He surrendered his license in 2000 in what is known as a “disciplinary resignation” following an investigation by the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division’s grievance committee into a 1993 case in which he routed $100,000 from his stepfather’s escrow account to himself, records show.
Around that time, Kidan got involved in several businesses, including bagel shops and a phone-based mattress sales business. Eventually, he reconnected with an acquaintance from his college days: Abramoff, who at the time was a top Washington lobbyist.
In September 2000, Kidan and Abramoff made a deal to purchase Florida-based SunCruz Casinos from Konstantinos “Gus” Boulis. The business sailed cruise ships into international waters, where gambling was not regulated by state law.
In February 2001, Boulis was shot and killed while driving his BMW in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in what The Washington Post called a “gangland-style slaying.” Kidan was questioned in the case but was not charged with any wrongdoing. He later testified for the prosecution.
In September 2005, authorities charged three men in the homicide case. Kidan had paid two of the men, Anthony “Little Tony” Ferrari and Anthony “Big Tony” Moscatiello, more than $240,000 as consultants in the SunCruz deal in the months leading up to the murder, according to news reports at the time. Moscatiello had previously been indicted for heroin trafficking for the Gambino organized crime family, news reports noted. Ferrari and Moscatiello were convicted of murder in the Boulis case and sentenced to life in prison.
Also in 2005, Kidan and Abramoff pleaded guilty to defrauding lenders who helped them buy SunCruz, court documents show. Kidan and Abramoff had been accused of “allegedly concocting a fake $23 million wire transfer to make it appear they were putting a significant portion of their own money into the $147.5 million SunCruz deal,” NBC News reported. “Two lenders agreed to provide $60 million in financing for the SunCruz purchase based on that false wire transfer, according to prosecutors.”
Kidan began a 70-month federal prison sentence at Fort Dix, New Jersey, in 2006. He was paroled in 2009, owing part of a $21.7 million restitution agreement to the federal government along with Abramoff.
Kidan and his family moved to Lancaster County in 2014, eventually buying a house in Manheim Township’s gated Bent Creek neighborhood. The house was sold last month.
It is not clear how much Kidan still owes in restitution. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida declined to comment on the status of Kidan’s restitution. But in 2018, a federal prosecutor from that office filed a lien with the Lancaster County prothonotary that states Kidan was still responsible for paying the restitution, plus interest, as part of his plea agreement settling the 2005 case.
Kidan’s attorney, Damion Robinson, said Kidan is “in full compliance with the terms and conditions of the restitution order.”
“Any amounts actually owed will … continue to be paid in compliance with the terms of that order,” Robinson said.
Kidan said the surrender of his law license and criminal conviction are “decades old.”
“I would have hoped that the local newspaper would have heralded my success at a second chance,” he said.
Kidan is a donor to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, and said he supports other local groups financially. He also noted that the Central Penn Business Journal ranked Chartwell Staffing Services, the company he founded with his now-estranged wife Tracy Schneider-Kidan, as the “fastest-growing company” in 2016 and 2017.
Court records filed by one of Kidan’s lawyers state that as recently as July he and Schneider-Kidan owed the IRS and the state of California as much as $3.5 million in unpaid taxes on their business from 2017 and 2018.
“The tax liability is a business related claim from several years ago that is subject to ongoing litigation,” Robinson said. “It has been settled in large part, and the remainder is currently being settled in connection with the divorce proceedings.”
He said Kidan and Schneider-Kidan have sufficient funds to pay off the remainder of the tax liability.
Kidan initiated divorce proceedings in June 2017, which are ongoing. For a time, he remained in charge of Chartwell, but in 2019, he and several Chartwell executives formed a rival company, Atlantic Solutions Group, which does business as Empire Workforce Solutions.
A lawsuit filed by Chartwell accused Empire of stealing trade secrets, and alleged that Kidan used money belonging to the company to fund a lavish lifestyle for himself. The companies settled the suit; terms were not made public.
Support for Smucker
Kidan has given committees tied to or supporting Smucker $192,305 since 2016, state and federal campaign filings show. Kidan also paid for facility and catering services for Smucker in 2022 and 2023 — in-kind contributions totaling $52,000.
His $120,000 in donations to JAM For PA makes up 43% of the total contributions to the state-level campaign committee, which is closely tied to Smucker.
Smucker and his associated state and federal political action committees have received at least $380,000 from people connected to the temporary staffing industry since 2015, according to Federal Election Commission and Pennsylvania campaign finance filings. That number includes Kidan’s companies, as well as competitors.
Nearly everyone on the executive suites of companies associated with Kidan has donated to Smucker in recent years.
- Chartwell Chief Learning Officer Dale Fallon of Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County, gave $31,000 over four instances. He didn’t respond to requests for comment.
- Orange County, California-based Chartwell executive Holmes Lilley gave $25,300. Lilley said he couldn’t remember whether he donated to Smucker.
- Philadelphia-based former Chartwell CFO Todd Oken gave $19,300. Oken did not respond to a request for comment.
- West Chester-based Empire executive and former Chartwell employee Kevin Case gave $7,500. Case could not be reached for comment.
- Former Empire and Chartwell executive Tony Alanis, from the Los Angeles area, gave a total of $7,200. Alanis declined to comment.
- Empire Senior Vice President Jamie Diaz of Lititz gave $7,200. Diaz could not be reached.
Smucker has publicly stated his support for temporary staffing companies, placing the industry as an essential part of a strategy to address worker shortages companies face.
The industry is a growing business sector that provides workers to companies, earning profits from the difference between what employees are paid and what the staffing companies charge their clients.
“In fact, every few months I meet with a group of staffing companies,” Smucker said on the House floor in March 2019. “These individuals operate companies that fill positions ranging from temporary to permanent work in various industries. Between these staffing companies, they would be able to fill thousands of jobs today if they could find the necessary workers. Every day, these positions go unfilled and opportunities are lost.”
Kidan’s support for Smucker amounts to a fraction of his overall political donations. Kidan has given $1 million to political action committees, candidates and political parties since 2017, including more than $223,000 so far this year.
Kidan’s giving doesn’t end there. He also runs an LLC, Churchill Business Consultants, which in April gave $250,000 to a committee supporting Trump’s 2024 campaign, The Washington Post reported.
In May 2021, photos on Pereira’s social media show Kidan and Smucker along with other high-profile Republicans, including California U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, who now runs Trump’s Truth Social website.
Later that year, in September, Smucker and his wife, Cindy, traveled to California’s Napa Valley with Smucker’s then-deputy chief of staff, Zachary Peirson, and Peirson’s wife. There, they joined Kidan, Pereira and several of Kidan’s colleagues for a wine tour, Instagram photos show.
Geesey said this was a fundraising event. Smucker’s political action committee spent about $8,000 on a winery tour service and at Nickel & Nickel, Chappellet and Alpha Omega wineries around that time, campaign finance filings show.
Smucker’s meeting with Kidan at Mar-a-Lago in April 2022 was documented in an Instagram post. The post shows Thapanee Nicozisis and her husband, Philip Nicozisis, a Florida real estate investor and author who grew up partly in Lancaster County, with Smucker. The caption thanked Kidan and Pereira for “some quality time getting to know” the congressman. Philip Nicozisis, the son of central Pennsylvania carpet maven Louis Nicozisis, donated $3,500 to Smucker’s campaign that month and another $5,000 a year later, filings show.
The night before the 2022 midterm elections, photos showing Kidan and Pereira with Smucker and his staff were posted to a Facebook account under the name Cris Estevao. In one, Smucker stands next to Pereira, who is shown beside Trump. On Trump’s other side, giving a thumbs up that mirrored Trump’s signature gesture, stands Kidan.
Members of Congress are free to spend their own money on personal travel and accommodations, said Daniel Weiner, who directs the elections and government program at the Brennan Center for Justice, a progressive-leaning public policy think tank.
A lawmaker also may spend official congressional funds on business travel, he said. They may use campaign funds on travel related to campaigning and fundraising, but not for personal travel.
Still, “there’s a lot of gray area,” in what is allowed, Weiner said. “Were the campaign funds used wisely? Typically regulators don’t really try to second guess how the campaign used the money.”
Smucker is one of the 40 members of the influential House Committee on Ways and Means.
He’s also on the House Committee on the Budget, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and the Joint Economic Committee. Those committees have enormous influence on everything from the tax code to employment law, but Weiner said that it’s “incredibly challenging” to make a connection between political donors and a lawmaker’s policies.
“That isn’t usually the point of political giving, and obviously if it’s too blatant, if it is an actual quid pro quo, it becomes illegal,” he said. “What, really, money buys, is access and influence.”
Weiner said that the need to raise money to stay in office is a basic reality legislators face. But he said Smucker’s decision to lean into that with Kidan is a bit surprising.
“The risk of either actually skewing policy in favor of the wealthiest, most powerful interests, or at least creating that perception, is significant,” Weiner said. “That is, I think, the fundamental concern with the way we pay for our politics and feels like the most elemental problem that we’ve been struggling with in this country for decades.”
LNP | LancasterOnline reporters Sarah Nicell and Nathan Willison contributed to this report. Nicell and Willison cover campaign finance; their work is funded by the Lancaster County Local Journalism Fund. For more information, or to make a contribution, please visit lanc.news/supportlocaljournalism.