Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Homes of Representative's Close Friend and Daughter Searched in Corruption Probe

In a potential new avenue for federal corruption investigators looking at Capitol Hill, the FBI searched the homes of a close friend and the daughter of Pennsylvania Representative Curt Weldon.  The search warrants are related to an investigation of Representative Weldon involving possible assistance he gave a company, Solutions North America, owned by his daughter and the close friend, to obtain lobbying contracts from foreign clients.  Neither Representative Weldon's congressional offices nor his home were searched.  The FBI also searched properties in Florida owned by a Russian natural gas company that paid Solutions $500,000 for lobbying work.  According to an AP story (here), the Department of Justice executed the warrants because of the disclosure of its investigation over the past few days, and the concern that documents might be destroyed.  While search warrants used to be uncommon in white collar crime cases, any indication that documents may "disappear" will usually trigger a broad search for an array of records.  Although more cumbersome than a grand jury subpoena, a warrant allows for the quick seizure of documents that can be sorted out later, rather than trusting the recipient to produce relevant records.  A warrant certainly does not mean wrongdoing occurred, and the FBI's description of probable cause used to obtain it may indicate little more than the surmise of agents. (ph)

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