Thursday, May 4, 2006

Another Guilty Plea in Corruption Investigation of Louisiana Congressman

Kentucky businessman Vernon Jackson admitted in federal court that he paid over $400,000 to Louisiana Representative William Jefferson to secure his assistance in obtaining government contracts and participating in deals in Africa.  A press release issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia (here) only identifies the official as "Representative A," although the media has disclosed that it is Representative Jefferson who is involved (see Washington Post story here).  According to the press release:

[F]rom 1998 through the present, Jackson has been the Chairman and CEO of iGate, Incorporated, a Kentucky firm focused on developing technology which is designed to transmit data, audio, and video communications over copper wire. In his plea today, Jackson admits that in approximately 2000, he was introduced to a member of the U.S. House of Representatives (Representative A), who was active in promoting U.S. trade and business in Africa. Representative A then provided official assistance to Jackson in persuading the U.S. Army to test iGate’s broadband two-way technology and other iGate products. Representative A’s official assistance led to the placement of iGate on the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) schedule, making iGate products eligible for use in various federal contracts. Ultimately, iGate’s products were used by the U.S. Army at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

Jackson further admits that in early 2001, Representative A told him that Representative A would not continue to provide official assistance to Jackson’s company, iGate, unless Jackson agreed to pay a nominee company ostensibly maintained in the names of Representative A’s spouse and children. Jackson agreed and signed a consulting services agreement committing iGate to pay the nominee company various things of value, thereby concealing Jackson’s payments in exchange for Representative A’s performance of official acts in furtherance of iGate’s business in Africa and elsewhere, including, but not limited to: a) monthly payments of $7,500; b) a percentage of iGate’s gross sales; c) a percentage of capital investments raised for iGate; and d) options for iGate stock.

In January 2005, a former aide in Representative Jefferson's office pleaded guilty to a similar charge involving the solicitation of bribes.  The grand jury has also subpoenaed six member of Representative Jefferson's staff to testify, as discussed in an earlier post (here).   Prosecutors appear to be closing in on yet another Congressman in the Department of Justice's ongoing corruption probe. (ph)

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