Filing: Tape Shows Lawmaker Taking Money
May 21 4:35 PM US/Eastern
By MATTHEW BARAKAT
Associated Press Writer
A congressman under investigation for bribery was
caught on videotape accepting $100,000 in $100 bills
from an FBI informant whose conversations with the
lawmaker also were recorded, according to a court
document released Sunday. Agents later found the cash
hidden in his freezer.
At one audiotaped meeting, Rep. William Jefferson,
D-La., chuckles about writing in code to keep secret
what the government contends was his corrupt role in
getting his children a cut of a communications
company's deal for work in Africa.
As Jefferson and the informant passed notes about what
percentage the lawmaker's family might receive, the
congressman "began laughing and said, 'All these damn
notes we're writing to each other as if we're talking,
as if the FBI is watching,'" according to the
Jefferson, who represents New Orleans, has not been
charged and denies any wrongdoing.
As for the $100,000, the government says Jefferson got
the money in a leather briefcase last July 30 at the
Ritz-Carlton hotel in Arlington. The plan was for the
lawmaker to use the cash to bribe a high-ranking
Nigerian official _ the name is blacked out in the
court document _ to ensure the success of a business
deal in that country, the affidavit said.
All but $10,000 was recovered on Aug. 3 when the FBI
searched Jefferson's home in Washington. The money was
stuffed in his freezer, wrapped in $10,000 packs and
concealed in food containers and aluminum foil.
Two of Jefferson's associates have pleaded guilty to
bribery-related charges in federal court in
Alexandria. One, businessman Vernon Jackson of
Louisville, Ky., admitted paying more than $400,000 in
bribes to the lawmaker in exchange for his help
securing business deals for Jackson's
telecommunications company in Nigeria and other
The new details about the case emerged after federal
agents searched Jefferson's congressional office on
Capitol Hill Saturday night and Sunday. The nearly
100-page affidavit for a search warrant, made public
Sunday with large portions blacked out, spells out
much of the evidence so far.
The document includes excerpts of conversations
between Jefferson and an unidentified business
executive from northern Virginia. She agreed to wear a
wire after she approached the FBI with complaints that
Jefferson and an associate had ripped her off in a
Jefferson's lawyer, Robert Trout, contended that the
prosecutors' disclosure was "part of a public
relations agenda and an attempt to embarrass
Congressman Jefferson. The affidavit itself is just
one side of the story which has not been tested in
court," Trout said in a statement.
The affidavit says Jefferson is caught on videotape at
the Ritz- Carlton as he takes a reddish-brown
briefcase from the trunk of the informant's car, slips
it into a cloth bag, puts the bag into his 1990
Lincoln Town Car and drives away.
The $100 bills in the suitcase had the same serial
numbers as those found in Jefferson's freezer.
While the name of the intended recipient of the
$100,000 is blacked out, other details in the
affidavit indicate he is Abubakar Atiku, Nigeria's
vice president. He owns a home in Potomac, Md., that
authorities have searched as part of the Jefferson
Jefferson assured the FBI informant in their coded
conversations that he paid the money to the Nigerian
official, even though the money was still in
Jefferson's possession when agents searched his home
On Aug. 1, two days after Jefferson picked up the
$100,000, the informant called Jefferson to ask about
the status of "the package."
Jefferson responded: "I gave him the African art that
you gave me and he was very pleased."
When Jefferson and the informant had dinner at a
Washington restaurant on May 12, 2005, the FBI was
listening, too. Jefferson indicates he will need an
increased stake in the profits of one deal, the
affidavit said. Instead of the 7 percent stake
originally agreed upon, he writes "18-20" on a piece
of paper and passes it to the informant.
That is when negotiations move ahead and notes go back
and forth, ending with Jefferson's laughter about the
FBI watching it all.
Throughout the conversations, Jefferson makes attempts
to deflect direct connections to any bribes.
He tells the informant at one point that money should
be paid to businesses operated by his children. "I
make a deal for my children. It wouldn't be me,"
Jefferson said, according to the affidavit.
In a different conversation, Jefferson seeks to
distance himself from bribes that must be paid to
Nigerian government officials to facilitate
"If he's gotta pay Minister X, we don't want to know.
It's not our deal," Jefferson told the witness,
according to the affidavit. "We're not paying Minister
X a damn thing. That's all, you know, international
fraud crap. We're not doing that. We're not doing any
of that that gets us (unintelligible)."
The affidavit also spells out "seven other schemes" in
which Jefferson was involved; nearly all were blacked
out in the document.
The Jefferson investigation has provided fodder for
Republicans who have suffered black eyes in the
investigations of current and former GOP lawmakers,
including Tom DeLay and Randy "Duke" Cunningham.
Jefferson, who has pledged not to resign from Congress
in the face of the bribery investigation, speculated
about his political future in one of the recorded
When the informant asked Jefferson about his political
plans, he responded: "I'm gonna get your deal out of
the way ... and I probably won't last long after