HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — An antiques dealer who bought a
condominium from Gov. John Rowland at an above-market price pleaded
guilty to a tax charge yesterday. A source told The Associated
Press that the dealer agreed to cooperate with authorities in a
federal probe of the governor’s administration.

Wayne Pratt, an expert on New England furniture and a regular
contributor to the PBS program “Antiques Roadshow,”
could help prosecutors establish whether the Republican governor
had crooked dealings with state contractors.

Pratt bought the Washington condo from Rowland for $68,500 in
1997, at a time when similar condos in the same building went for
$20,000 to $30,000.

Pratt said he met Rowland once briefly at a party, but never
discussed the sale of the condo with him and never saw it before he
bought it.

He said he bought it for someone else, identified in court
papers as “Associate A.” Prosecutors said
“Associate A” paid for the condo and purchased it
through Pratt because he did not want to be listed as the
buyer.

Pratt’s attorneys have said that “Associate A”
is businessman and state contractor Robert Matthews, a friend of
both Pratt and Rowland who arranged the sale.

A source involved in the case told the AP on condition of
anonymity that Pratt has agreed to cooperate with the federal
investigation into Rowland’s administration.

Pratt faces a maximum penalty of a year in prison and a $100,000
fine, but is expected to receive probation.

“I am sorry for the mistake I made by failing to file a
completely accurate tax return,” Pratt said. “I look
forward to putting this situation behind me and focusing on my
antiques business.”

Lawmakers said yesterday’s news could be damaging to
Rowland.

“Every day it’s a drip, drip, drip. With this
development, I think it’s like Niagara Falls is coming right
at us,” said House Speaker Moira Lyons.

William Dow III, Rowland’s attorney, downplayed the
plea.

“Wayne Pratt cannot truthfully make any claim that John
Rowland engaged in any improper or illegal activity,” Dow
said.

Matthews has received millions of dollars in state-backed loans
for manufacturing companies he owns. A building he owns in New
Haven is filled with state offices.

Federal prosecutors have been trying to determine whether there
was a quid pro quo agreement between Rowland and state contractors.
Rowland has acknowledged receiving gifts from employees and
contractors, but said he did not provide anything in return.

A legislative committee is also investigating Rowland, and will
decide whether to recommend his impeachment.

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