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Abramoff Pleads Guilty to Federal Fraud Charges
Tuesday, January 03, 2006

WASHINGTON — Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to three federal charges Tuesday, suggesting he will cooperate in a Washington probe that could implicate several congressional officials in a cash-for-influence scandal.

Abramoff pleaded guilty on Tuesday in U.S. District Court to honest services fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion relating to his service to Indian tribes, several of whom are Abramoff's former clients. Abramoff appeared in front of Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle.

Huvelle received acknowledgement from Abramoff when she said he had engaged in a conspiracy involving "corruption of public officials" and that he and others had engaged in a scheme to provide campaign contributions, trips and other items "in exchange for certain official acts."

The plea deal carries up to 30 years in prison, but prosecutors will recommend a sentence of 9 1/2 to 11 years, providing Abramoff cooperates with federal prosecutors. Restitution to his clients could be at least $25 million. As part of the agreement, Abramoff will lay out of all his finances and all of his activities within 45 days, at which point the government will determine exactly how much he must pay. He will also have to pay $1.7 million to the IRS.

As part of the plea deal, Abramoff has also agreed to give "truthful information" and to testify if necessary to a grand jury or to a trial before a jury.



"The defendant understands that this plea agreement is explicitly dependent upon his providing completely truthful testimony in any trial or other proceeding, whether called as a witness by the Unites States, the defense or the court," reads the plea agreement.

As Tuesday's court session neared its end, Abramoff stood at the defendant's table and said, "Words will not express my sorrow and profound regret."

He also expressed "tremendous sadness and regret for my conduct" and said, "I hope I can merit forgiveness from the Almighty and those I've wronged or caused to suffer." He added he "will work hard for my redemption."

The criminal information — charging documents issued by a federal prosecutor with a defendant's permission to bypass a grand jury — says that Abramoff, partner Michael Scanlon and others allegedly bribed "Representative #1."

Abramoff corruptly gave "money, meals, trips and entertainment to public officials and their relatives with the intent to influence and in return for agreements to perform official acts" benefiting Abramoff, Scanlon and their clients, the court papers say.

Representative #1 is identified elsewhere in documents as Ohio Republican Rep. Bob Ney, chairman of the House Administration Committee. The criminal information says Ney received a golf trip to Scotland and other valuable gifts in exchange for help to Abramoff's clients.

It also says Abramoff solicited $50,000 from a wireless telephone company and got Ney's agreement to push the company's application to install a system in the House of Representatives.

Ney's attorney, Mark Tuohey, described the charges as "nothing new" and a repeat of a November plea deal with Scanlon. Ney issued a statement saying that he has never done anything wrong or illegal and the plea agreement doesn't change that.

"At the time I dealt with Jack Abramoff, I obviously did not know, and had no way of knowing, the self-serving and fraudulent nature of Abramoff's activities," Ney said.

Ney's office also said the contract awarded in 2002 to Foxcom for wireless equipment in the House was not Ney's decision, though it was his prerogative, but rather a decision made collectively by the companies that would incur the cost of installation.

The congressional probe, of course, could grow much deeper as Justice Department lawyers are believed to be focusing on as many as 20 lawmakers and aides, and Abramoff's testimony could lead to untold revelations.

"We're going to expend the resources to make sure people know that government is not for sale," Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher said after the hearing.

Already, the Bush administration's former chief procurement official, David H. Safavian, has pleaded innocent to charges made this fall that he made false statements and obstructed investigations into the 2002 golf outing.

Even the appearance of a relationship with Abramoff has led several lawmakers, including Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.; Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont.; Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.; and Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla.; to return campaign contributions from Abramoff.

Already under investigation for his relationship with Abramoff is Rep. Tom DeLay. DeLay is said to have received golf outings and other trips as well as $57,000 in political contributions from Abramoff, his lobbying associates or his tribal clients between 2001 and 2004.

On Wednesday, DeLay spokesman Kevin Madden said DeLay is cooperating with the Department of Justice.

"Mr. DeLay believes everyone should cooperate with the [Department of Justice], that his counsel has contacted officials and informed them of his willingness to cooperate should that be required and that everything was fully vetted by lawyers, promptly and publicly disclosed," Madden said.

Abramoff and his partners represented Indian tribes for five years ending in early 2004. The tribes contributed millions of dollars in casino income to congressional campaigns, often routing the money through political action committees. Prosecutors say Abramoff and Scanlon conspired to defraud Indian tribes in Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi and Texas by pocketing $20 million in hidden profits.

Before the plea, White House spokesman Scott McClellan had said he was aware of media reports that Abramoff was to plead guilty and called the alleged actions "unacceptable and outrageous."

"What he is reportedly acknowledging doing is unacceptable and outrageous," McClellan said. "If laws were broken, he should be held accountable and punished."

McClellan said he is double-checking into whether President Bush had ever met Abramoff.

Campaign finance records do show that Abramoff raised at least $100,000 for Bush's 2004 re-election effort, making him a campaign "pioneer." Abramoff and his partners also made at least 200 contacts with the Bush administration in 2001, including with Vice President Dick Cheney's advisers and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. The meetings related to Abramoff's client, the Northern Mariana Islands, which has territorial status with the United States and wanted friendly hires at federal agencies and to preserve its exemption from the U.S. minimum wage.

In a separate agreement to be reached on Wednesday, Abramoff will appear in a Florida courtroom to plead guilty to two counts of fraud stemming from the 2000 purchase of the SunCruz Casinos cruise ship.

In Florida, Abramoff will plead guilty to two of the six charges in the federal indictment, Abramoff's Miami attorney, Neal Sonnett, said. Abramoff and a former partner were indicted in August for allegedly lying about their assets to help secure financing to purchase some gambling boats.

Sonnett said his client will also agree to cooperate in any ongoing federal investigations in Washington. The Florida plea agreement will come on Wednesday.

Abramoff will plead guilty to counts one and three of the indictment, wire fraud as well as conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, Sonnett said. The plea agreement states that sentencing guidelines call for Abramoff to be jailed for 70 months to 87 months, but that period could be reduced because of Abramoff's cooperation.

"The government will dismiss the remaining counts of the Miami indictment at the time of sentencing and will also recommend that the sentence imposed in the Miami case run concurrently to any sentence imposed as a result of charges filed today in the District of Columbia," Sonnett told FOX News in a letter.

In 2000, Abramoff and former partner Adam Kidan began the purchase of the SunCruz fleet for $147.5 million from Miami businessman Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis. Prosecutors allege the team faked a $23 million wire transfer to make it look like they had more money to contribute to the deal than they did. 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 a sentencing hearing scheduled for March 1.

As part of his November plea deal, Scanlon agreed to cooperate in the SunCruz case. In that agreement, Scanlon admitted helping Kidan and Abramoff buy SunCruz, partly by persuading Ney to insert comments into the Congressional Record designed to pressure Boulis to sell.

Boulis, also founder of the Miami Subs restaurant chain, was found shot to death in February 2001 during a bitter struggle for control of SunCruz. In September, Fort Lauderdale police arrested three men, including one who had worked for Kidan and had ties to New York mobsters, in the murder case.

Kidan and Abramoff have repeatedly denied any involvement in the Boulis killing. The three men arrested on murder charges have all pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial in Fort Lauderdale.
 
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Anonymous

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Poll: Half believe Congress is dirty

Tuesday, January 3, 2006; Posted: 5:00 p.m. EST (22:00 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- About half of U.S. adults believe most members of Congress are corrupt, a poll released Tuesday suggests.

According to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, 49 percent of respondents said most members of Congress are corrupt. Although 46 percent of respondents said most aren't, the margin of sampling error -- plus or minus 4.5 percent -- makes it clear that the perception of congressional politicians is largely negative.

Congress' image could emerge as an election topic, with 55 percent of respondents saying corruption will be "the most important" or a "very important" issue to consider when voting in November, when all 435 House seats, and 33 Senate seats, will be decided. (View poll results)

Thirty-two percent of people surveyed said corruption was moderately important, and 12 percent called it not important.

But when asked to identify corruption by party, respondents were more hesitant. About half of those polled said "only a few" members of either party are corrupt.

Asked how many congressional Republicans are corrupt, 19 percent of respondents said "almost all" and 28 percent said "many." The response was similar when people were asked about corruption among Democrats: 17 percent said "almost all" and 27 percent said "many."

The poll was conducted among 1,003 adults December 16-18, before former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud and tax-evasion charges Tuesday as part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors.
 
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Anonymous

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Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2006 11:50 a.m. EST
Harry Reid Caught in Abramoff Plea Deal?



This morning's announcement that Washington super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff has reached a plea bargain deal with the Justice Department has reporters salivating over what they hint is going to be a Republican mega-scandal.

But it turns out that the most prominent player in Abramoff's web of influence was reportedly none other than the Senate's top Democrat, Harry Reid.

In a little-noticed story in November, The Associated Press revealed that Reid had accepted tens of thousands of dollars from an Abramoff client, the Coushatta Indian tribe, after interceding with Secretary of the Interior Gail Norton over a casino dispute with a rival tribe.

Reid "sent a letter to Norton on March 5, 2002," reported the AP. "The next day, the Coushattas issued a $5,000 check to Reid's tax-exempt political group, the Searchlight Leadership Fund. A second tribe represented by Abramoff sent an additional $5,000 to Reid's group. Reid ultimately received more than $66,000 in Abramoff-related donations between 2001 and 2004."

Questioned about the donations last month by "Fox News Sunday's" Chris Wallace, Reid immediately turned testy.

"Don't try to say I received money from Abramoff. I've never met the man, don't know anything," he insisted.

When Wallace protested: "But you've received money from [one of his Indian tribe clients]," the top Democrat shot back: "Make sure that all your viewers understand - not a penny from Abramoff. I've been on the Indian Affairs Committee my whole time in the Senate."

When the Fox host pressed again on the Abramoff-linked donations, a flustered-sounding Reid continued to stonewall, saying: "I'll repeat, Abramoff gave me no money. His firm gave me no money. He may have worked [at] a firm where people have given me money. But I have – I feel totally at ease that I haven't done anything that is even close to being wrong."
 
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Anonymous

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Justice Dept officials are saying off the record that at least 20 US congressional members (both House and Senate) are currently under investigation... Fox news is reporting that Abramoff sources are saying that this will implicate over 60 Congressional members (both House and Senate) in taking money or gratuities for official services requested or rendered- both Democrat and Republican.....

No wonder they gave him such a sweet plea bargain deal....

Go get them -- Time to clean house and take the corporate money out of running our government.......
 

Liberty Belle

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Amen. We're overdue for a good house (and senate!) cleaning. I don't care what their party affiliation is, crooked is crooked . Jail every one caught with their hands dirty.
 

Liberty Belle

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Interesting article here...

Harry Reid Caught in Abramoff Plea Deal?
Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2006

This morning's announcement that Washington super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff has reached a plea bargain deal with the Justice Department has reporters salivating over what they hint is going to be a Republican mega-scandal.

But it turns out that the most prominent player in Abramoff's web of influence was reportedly none other than the Senate's top Democrat, Harry Reid.

In a little-noticed story in November, The Associated Press revealed that Reid had accepted tens of thousands of dollars from an Abramoff client, the Coushatta Indian tribe, after interceding with Secretary of the Interior Gail Norton over a casino dispute with a rival tribe.

Reid "sent a letter to Norton on March 5, 2002," reported the AP. "The next day, the Coushattas issued a $5,000 check to Reid's tax-exempt political group, the Searchlight Leadership Fund. A second tribe represented by Abramoff sent an additional $5,000 to Reid's group. Reid ultimately received more than $66,000 in Abramoff-related donations between 2001 and 2004."

Questioned about the donations last month by "Fox News Sunday's" Chris Wallace, Reid immediately turned testy.

"Don't try to say I received money from Abramoff. I've never met the man, don't know anything," he insisted.

When Wallace protested: "But you've received money from [one of his Indian tribe clients]," the top Democrat shot back: "Make sure that all your viewers understand - not a penny from Abramoff. I've been on the Indian Affairs Committee my whole time in the Senate."

When the Fox host pressed again on the Abramoff-linked donations, a flustered-sounding Reid continued to stonewall, saying: "I'll repeat, Abramoff gave me no money. His firm gave me no money. He may have worked [at] a firm where people have given me money. But I have – I feel totally at ease that I haven't done anything that is even close to being wrong."
 

Disagreeable

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Liberty Belle said:
I don't care what their party affiliation is, crooked is crooked

ROTFLMAO! Now that the Republicans are caught red handed, it's a bipartisan issue! There'll be lots of spin. But, in the end, more Republicans will be dirty than Dems. And it's coming just as the election year starts. This is going to be soooo much fun.
 
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Anonymous

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President, others toss Abramoff donations
Associated Press

WASHINGTON - President Bush and numerous lawmakers hastily jettisoned campaign donations linked to lobbyist Jack Abramoff on Wednesday as Republican Party officials pondered the effect of a spreading scandal on their 2006 election prospects.

"I wish it hadn't happened because it's not going to help us keep our majority," conceded Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio.

Officials said Bush's 2004 re-election campaign intended to give up $6,000 in donations from the lobbyist, his wife and a client.


Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas - facing legal problems of his own - took similar steps, as did his leadership successor, Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, and Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, another member of the GOP leadership.

"While we firmly believe the contributions were legal at the time of receipt, the plea indicates that such contributions may not have been given in the spirit in which they were received," said Burson Taylor, a spokeswoman for Blunt.

In all, four dozen lawmakers - three-fourths of them Republicans - have announced plans this week to return donations, mostly funds that came from Abramoff or Indian tribes he represented. Among the Democrats is Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.


Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, who faces legal scrutiny for his links to the lobbyist, joined in the rush.

And a political action committee controlled by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said it planned to

return $2,000 from the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.

The Republican rush to shed cash that once was eagerly sought underscored the potential political problem the party faces at the dawn of an election year.

"You can't have a corrupt lobbyist unless you have a corrupt member (of Congress) or a corrupt staff," former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich said in a lunchtime speech. "This was a team effort."

Gingrich, who battled ethics charges near the end of his tenure in Congress, also told reporters he thinks Republicans should elect a permanent replacement for DeLay. In addition to links with Abramoff, the Texan is battling campaign finance charges in his home state.

Frist issued a statement placing ethics issues on the Senate agenda for the year. He said he intends to "examine and act on any necessary changes to improve transparency and accountability for our body when it comes to lobbying.'

For their part, House Democrats have signaled they intend to make ethics an element in their drive to gain a majority in next fall's elections.

"It's more important for these Republicans to come clean with the American people about ... what (they) did for Jack Abramoff and his special interest friends in return for those campaign contributions," said Sarah Feinberg, a spokeswoman at the House Democratic campaign organization.

Federal prosecutors, armed with subpoena power and a newly cooperative witness, want answers to similar questions, according to the guilty plea that Abramoff entered on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington.

In a section of court papers headed "corruption of public officials," Abramoff acknowledged he had worked to provide "things of value to public officials in exchange for a series of official acts and influence."

People familiar with the investigation said federal investigators are interested in questioning Abramoff about his dealings with DeLay and Ney as well as other lawmakers and officials. Those include Rep. John Doolittle, R-Calif., and Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., as well as former deputy Interior Secretary Stephen Griles and former top Bush administration contract officer David Safavian, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because Abramoff's information is likely to be submitted to a federal grand jury.

The money being returned paled in comparison to the totals raised.

The president's campaign raised more than $300 million in all for the 2004 campaign.

Abramoff raised $100,000 or more, but a spokeswoman at the Republican National Committee said that would be kept apart from the $6,000 being given to the American Heart Association.

"At this point, there is nothing to indicate that contributions from those individual donors represents anything other than enthusiastic support for the BC-04 re-election campaign," Tracey Schmitt said.


 
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