Friday, December 30, 2005

Will Abramoff Ring in the New Year with a Plea Agreement?

An AP story (here) notes that lobbyist Jack Abramoff is close to a plea deal with prosecutors in Miami and Washington, D.C., in connection with the bank fraud charges in Florida and the investigation of corruption involving Congressmen and members of their staffs.  Abramoff has been at the center of an extensive investigation of payments and campaign contributions from Indian tribes he represented to various people on Capitol Hill.  Abramoff was a long-time friend and supporter of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and his contributions were spread through both parties in Congress.   In recent weeks, former colleagues have entered guilty pleas, including his co-defendant in the Florida fraud prosecution.

If Abramoff pleads guilty and agrees to cooperate in the investigation, the case has the potential to rip through Congress and put a number of careers in serious jeopardy, both politically and legally.  Ohio Rep. Bob Ney has already been identified as receiving improper payments from Abramoff in the plea agreement of Michael Scanlon, a former partner of Abramoff, and admitted to being a target of the grand jury investigation.   Rep. Ney may only be the first in a line of indictments in Washington D.C.  The AP story notes that Abramoff is likely to enter his guilty plea in the U.S. District Court in Washington, indicating that his cooperation will be crucial to prosecutors from the Public Integrity and Fraud Sections of Main Justice who have been conducting the investigation of corruption on Capitol Hill.  This case has the potential to be the white collar crime story of 2006. (ph)

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