Sunday, November 20, 2005

Ex-Republican aide charged in corruption case


Ex-Republican aide charged in corruption case

By James Vicini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A one-time aide to former House Republican Leader Tom DeLay of Texas has been charged with conspiring with his lobbyist partner Jack Abramoff to defraud Indian tribes of millions of dollars and to corruptly give gifts to a member of Congress, prosecutors said.

The filing of the one-count charge in federal court against Michael Scanlon, was contained in what is called a criminal information, usually used in cases involving a plea agreement, rather than in an indictment.

The New York Times reported on its Web site that Scanlon had agreed to plead guilty on Monday. "Mr. Scanlon and the Department of Justice will present a proposed plea agreement to the court to resolve the charge," his lawyer, Stephen Braga, was quoted as saying.

The charge was filed in federal court on Thursday and made public on Friday.

According to the charge, Scanlon and Abramoff, once a powerful Washington lobbyist, provided a stream of things of value to a member of Congress, identified only as "Representative No. 1," from January 2000 through April of last year.

The lawmaker and members of his staff received a lavish golf trip to Scotland, tickets to sporting events and other entertainment, regular meals and campaign contributions in return for supporting legislation, according to the court documents.

Rep. Bob Ney, a Republican from Ohio, said recently he had received a subpoena as part of the U.S. Justice Department's investigation of Abramoff.

A spokesman for Ney said the lawmaker will fully cooperate in the investigation. "He has not been told that he is the target of any investigation and there would be no grounds to do so. Mr. Scanlon's being charged with lying to and cheating his clients does not change that," the spokesman said.

According to the seven-page court document, the conspiracy's purpose was for Scanlon and Abramoff "to enrich themselves by obtaining substantial funds from their clients through fraud and concealment and through obtaining benefits for their clients through corrupt means."

A Justice Department spokesman said a hearing had been scheduled for Monday in federal court in Washington in Scanlon's case, but refused to give any details.

The documents described Scanlon's dealings with "Lobbyist A," with whom he worked. Although the lobbyist was not identified by name, a source close to the investigation said that it was Abramoff.

Scanlon's former boss, DeLay, faces conspiracy and money laundering charges in Texas as part of a campaign finance investigation. He resigned as majority leader in September when he was indicted.

Abramoff has pleaded not guilty to federal charges in Florida that he defrauded lenders in a casino cruise line deal.

The charges involving Scanlon said Abramoff solicited an Indian tribe in Mississippi in 1995 as a client for lobbying services on various issues.

Abramoff recommended that the tribe hire Scanlon's company, Capital Campaign Strategies, while concealing the fact that Abramoff would get half of the profits from the tribe's payments to Scanlon, according to the court papers.

The tribe paid Scanlon's firm $14.8 million from June 2001 through April 2004, while Scanlon concealed from the tribe that 50 percent of the profit, about $6.3 million, was kicked back to Abramoff under their secret arrangement, according to the papers.

The court documents detailed similar arrangements for tribes in Louisiana, Michigan and Texas.