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Abramoff Makes Plea Deal, Will Cooperate

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060103/ap_on_go_ot/lobbyist_fraud Abramoff Makes Plea Deal, Will Cooperate By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer 4 minutes ago
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 3, 2006

      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
      attorney there.

      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
      and 2004.

      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
      "Gus" Boulis.

      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.
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