Sunday, May 21, 2006

FBI raids US House of Representatives office

FBI raids US House of Representatives office

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - FBI officers raided a House of Representatives office building on Saturday night, and NBC television said it had searched the offices of Louisiana Democratic Rep. William Jefferson.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed the unusual raid at the Rayburn House Office Building on Washington's Capitol Hill but would not say whose office was searched.

"Agents of the FBI's Washington field office executed a search warrant this evening at Rayburn at approximately 7:15," Debbie Weierman, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Washington field office, said.

Weierman said the search warrant was sealed and she could not confirm whose office was being searched.

But two lawmakers under investigation in separate bribery scandals have offices in the Rayburn building -- Jefferson and Ohio Republican Rep. Bob Ney.

Calls to Jefferson's and Ney's offices were not answered.

Jefferson has maintained his innocence, but a former staffer and a Kentucky businessman have pleaded guilty to bribing him in connection with an African telecommunications venture.

According to court records filed in the plea deal, Jefferson helped secure a deal with a Nigerian company called Netlink Digital Television and in return demanded payments to a company maintained in the name of his wife and children.

Ney has been named, although not charged, in a bribery scandal centered on former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty to plying lawmakers with Super Bowl tickets, travel junkets and other gifts to win favors for his lobbying clients.

Ney's former chief of staff, Neil Volz, pleaded guilty earlier this month to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and to violating a one-year ban on lobbying after leaving Ney's office in 2002 and joining Abramoff's lobbying firm.

Ney has maintained his innocence.