Abramoff Makes Plea Deal, Will Cooperate
By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer 4 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - Lobbyist Jack Abramoff will plead guilty
to federal charges in Washington and Miami, clearing
the way for him to cooperate in a massive government
investigation of influence peddling involving members
of Congress, lawyers said Tuesday.
As part of the deal, prosecutors filed conspiracy,
fraud and tax evasion charges against the embattled
lobbyist. The filing outlined lavish gifts and
contributions that it said Abramoff gave an unnamed
House member, identified elsewhere as Rep. Bob Ney
(news, bio, voting record), R-Ohio, chairman of the
House Administration Committee, in return for Ney's
agreement to use his office to aid Abramoff clients.
Ney's lawyer, Mark Tuohey, said Tuesday that the
charges against Abramoff were "nothing new." He said
they repeated information in the November plea
agreement from Abramoff's lobbying partner, Michael
Abramoff was scheduled to appear at a hearing in U.S.
District Court here later Tuesday, said department
spokesman Bryan Sierra. Abramoff was expected to plead
guilty to three charges as part of his agreement.
Abramoff was then to plead guilty to two criminal
charges in Florida stemming from a 2000 purchase of a
fleet of gambling boats, said Neal Sonnett, his
Abramoff will plead guilty to two of the six charges
in a federal indictment, Sonnett said.
U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck has scheduled a
telephone status conference for later Tuesday. Four
other charges in Florida will remain pending.
Any such plea agreement likely would secure the
Republican lobbyist's testimony against several
members of Congress who received favors from him or
his clients. The Justice Department is believed to be
focusing on as many as 20 lawmakers and aides.
Abramoff's travels with former House Majority Leader
Tom DeLay are already under criminal investigation.
The lobbyist's interactions with the Texas
Republican's congressional office frequently came
around the time of campaign donations, golf outings or
other trips provided or arranged by Abramoff for DeLay
and other lawmakers. In all, DeLay received at least
$57,000 in political contributions from Abramoff, his
lobbying associates or his tribal clients between 2001
The new charges were contained in a criminal
information a filing made by a federal prosecutor
with a defendant's permission that bypasses action by
a grand jury.
Prosecutors say Abramoff and Scanlon conspired to
defraud Indian tribes in Louisiana, Michigan,
Mississippi and Texas of millions of dollars. Abramoff
reaped roughly $20 million in hidden profits from the
scheme, according to the information. Scanlon pleaded
guilty in November.
Abramoff and Scanlon also lavished a golf trip to
Scotland and other things of value on Ney, the court
document said. Ney has denied doing anything wrong.
It also said Abramoff solicited $50,000 from a
wireless telephone company and got Ney's agreement to
push the company's application to install a wireless
telephone infrastructure in the House of
Representatives, a job Ney's committee would oversee.
Pressure had been intensifying on Abramoff to strike a
deal with prosecutors since another former partner,
Adam Kidan, pleaded guilty earlier this month to fraud
and conspiracy in connection with the 2000 SunCruz
boat deal in Florida.
Abramoff's cooperation would be a boon to an ongoing
Justice Department investigation of congressional
corruption, possibly helping prosecutors build
criminal cases against up to two-dozen lawmakers of
both parties and their staff members.
The continuing saga of Abramoff's legal problems has
caused anxiety at high levels in Washington, in both
the Republican and Democratic parties.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan could not say
Tuesday whether Abramoff ever met President Bush. But
when asked at the White House about this, the
spokesman said that "what he is reportedly
acknowledged doing is unacceptable and outrageous."
"If laws were broken, he must be held to account for
what he did," McClellan said.
For months, prosecutors in Washington have focused on
whether Abramoff defrauded his Indian tribal clients
of millions of dollars and used improper influence on
members of Congress.
In a five-year span ending in early 2004, tribes
represented by the lobbyist contributed millions of
dollars in casino income to congressional campaigns,
often routing the money through political action
committees for conservative lawmakers who opposed
Abramoff also provided trips, sports skybox
fundraisers, golf fees, frequent meals, entertainment
and jobs for lawmakers' relatives and aides.
In Florida, Abramoff and Kidan were indicted in August
on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and mail fraud in
connection with their purchase of the SunCruz fleet
for $147.5 million from Miami businessman Konstantinos
Prosecutors said the pair faked a $23 million wire
transfer to make it appear that they were making a
significant contribution of their own money into the
deal. Based on that transfer, lenders Foothill Capital
Corp. and Citadel Equity Fund Ltd. agreed to provide
$60 million in financing for the purchase.
Kidan pleaded guilty Dec. 15 to one count of
conspiracy and one count of wire fraud. He faces a
maximum of 10 years in prison and up to $500,000 in
fines at sentencing scheduled for March 1.
Scanlon agreed to cooperate in the SunCruz case as
part of a plea agreement in a separate case with
federal prosecutors in Washington. In that agreement,
Scanlon admitted helping Kidan and Abramoff buy
SunCruz, partly by persuading Ney to insert comments
in the Congressional Record designed to pressure
Boulis to sell.
Eds: Associated Press Writer Curt Anderson in Miami
contributed to this story.