News and articles relating to the scandal surrounding Washington D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Washington lobbyist Abramoff to fight charges-lawyer

Thursday, August 18, 2005; 6:44 PM

MIAMI (Reuters) - A Washington lobbyist who is a central figure in investigations involving House Majority Leader Tom DeLay plans to fight charges he defrauded two lenders of $60 million to buy a casino cruise line, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Jack Abramoff, a well-connected Republican lobbyist, and Adam Kidan, his partner in the $147.5 million buyout of SunCruz Casino five years ago, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on August 11.

His Miami attorney, Neal Sonnett, said Abramoff would plead not guilty. He also said his client knew nothing about the gangland-style murder in a Fort Lauderdale street of Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis, a Greek-immigrant entrepreneur from whom they bought the casino cruise line empire.

"He looks forward to defending himself," Sonnett told reporters after Abramoff made a brief appearance before a U.S. magistrate in Miami.

"Absolutely nothing," Sonnett added when asked what his client might be able to tell police about the 2001 killing of Boulis. Fort Lauderdale police have said they would like to interview Abramoff and Kidan about the murder.

Abramoff was not asked to enter a plea on Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Stephen Brown and his formal arraignment on the fraud charges was postponed until Friday because he had not yet obtained a full-time attorney.

Abramoff and Kidan face one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and five counts of wire fraud. Each count carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Prosecutors are also seeking restitution of the $60 million.

The indictment alleges they duped specialty lenders Foothill Capital and Citadel Equity Fund Ltd by pledging to invest $23 million in SunCruz in return for the $60 million loan. The indictment alleges the two men offered a fake wire transfer document as proof they had invested the money.

Abramoff is also under investigation over millions of dollars he was paid by an Indian tribe for lobbying efforts.

His case has attracted attention because of his links to DeLay, a Texas Republican, who has faced questions about his ties to lobbyists, foreign trips funded by outside groups and the use of campaign funds.

Opponents claim DeLay has engaged in unethical behavior. He has denied the allegations.

The Washington Post reported in April that a plane trip to London and Scotland by DeLay was charged to a credit card issued to Abramoff. Under House ethics rules, lawmakers are prohibited from accepting payment of trips and related expenses from registered lobbyists.

Erwin calls on Wilson to cancel DeLay fundraiser

August 18, 2005

August 18, 2005
News Release - For Immediate Release
Contact: Lachlan McIntosh (803) 799-7798

Facing possible indictment at any time on numerous charges, Tom DeLay is still scheduled to be the special guest of US Congressman Joe Wilson tomorrow at a fundraising golf tournament in Hilton Head. Today, South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Joe Erwin called on Wilson to cancel the fundraiser out of respect for his South Carolina constituents.

“South Carolinians value hard work and honesty. Tom DeLay doesn’t share those values and frankly, I'm disappointed to see Joe Wilson ignoring that for his own financial gain,” Erwin said. “Tom DeLay represents the big money, special interest corruption that is poisoning Washington, DC.”

Recently, DeLay fundraiser and close associate Jack Abramoff was indicted by a federal grand jury on fraud and corruption charges. DeLay describes Abramoff as one of his "closest and dearest friends." DeLay is currently being investigated in Texas for similar charges and is being investigated by the US House Ethics Committee. A recent Harris Poll revealed that only 28% of Americans have a positive view of DeLay, while 55% have a negative one.

Wilson told the Hilton Head Island Packet on Wednesday that: “I know Tom DeLay is a person of integrity. He has epitomized to me what a public official could be." Wilson has contributed $5,000 to DeLay’s legal defense fund.

“If Tom DeLay has really ‘epitomized what a public official could be’ for Joe Wilson, then South Carolina needs a new congressman from the second district. If Joe Wilson thinks it's more appropriate to go golfing with corrupt politicians rather than speaking up against them, I'd say he's already been in Washington too long,” Erwin said.

“Joe Wilson should think about the hard working people he represents who play by the rules and expect their elected officials to do the same. He needs to call this fundraiser off and start working for the people of South Carolina,” Erwin said.

Ohio Gov. Taft Enters No Contest Plea

By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 18, 2005; 12:36 PM

Ohio Gov. Bob Taft (R), who carries one of the most distinguished names in American politics, today entered a plea of no contest to charges that he had failed to report a series of golf outings, dinners and other gifts and was ordered to apologize to the people of Ohio.

Taft sought a quick conclusion to his role in a much larger scandal that now threatens the long-dominant Republican Party in the state. Less than 24 hours after being charged with four misdemeanor counts of violating state ethics laws, the two-term governor appeared in Franklin County court to enter his plea.

Franklin County Municipal Judge Mark Froehlich fined Taft $4,000, but the governor will face no jail time. Each count carried a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.

Taft's spokesman had said earlier that, despite the charges, the governor would not leave office before his final term ends in early 2007. In court, Taft was contrite for what he had earlier maintained was an inadvertent mistake in failing to report 52 outings, dinners or other gifts.

Taft pleaded no contest rather than guilty but said he took responsibility for what he had done. Noting that he expected all state workers to maintain high ethical standards, Taft was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "In this instance I have failed to live up to the those high expectations."

At a press conference after the court appearance, Taft apologized. "There are no words to express the deep remorse that I feel over the embarrassment that I have caused for my administration and the people of the state of Ohio," he said, according to the Associated Press.

Prosecutors said Taft had accepted $5,800 in unreported gifts between 2001 and 2004. Among them were two golf outings with Tom Noe, a prominent Republican fundraiser who is at the center of a scandal involving $50 million in the state worker compensation fund that Noe invested in rare coins. About $13 million is missing from the fund.

The Taft name has been one of the most storied in the history of the Republican Party. The governor's father and grandfather both served in the Senate and his great grandfather, William Howard Taft, served as President and as Chief Justice of the United States.

Republicans have dominated Ohio politics for much of the past decade. President Bush carried the state in 2000 and 2004. Both U.S. senators are Republicans as are all major statewide elected officials. Republicans also control both houses of the state legislature.

Taft struggled in office even before the coingate scandal broke open earlier this year, but his failure to report the gifts he had received drove his approval ratings down below 20 percent, according to one survey -- the lowest of any governor in the nation.

Republican strategists said Taft's ethical problems and the scandal over the worker compensation fund contributed to the surprisingly close outcome in a special House election in southwest Ohio two weeks ago. In that race, Democrat Paul Hackett, an Iraq war veteran and harsh critic of the president, came within fewer than 5,000 votes of upsetting Republican Jean Schmidt in a district that Bush won with 64 percent of the vote last fall.

Democrats now see 2006 as an opportunity to begin a comeback after years in retreat and disarray. National and state Democrats have made corruption their main theme and have set their sights on winning back the governor's office and rebuilding their strength in the state legislature.

Congressional Democrats have targeted Rep. Bob Ney (R) because of his ties to indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Earlier this week, Joe Sulzer, the Democratic mayor of Chillocothe, Ohio, announced his intention to run for Ney's seat. Senate Democrats hope to mount a challenge against Sen. Mike DeWine (R), although they have not yet found a strong candidate to challenge him.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company | 08/17/2005 | Cops to quiz high-powered lobbyist about Boulis murder


Homicide investigators have sent a letter to a Miami attorney asking for a sit-down with his client, high-powered Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who said he would be willing to speak to them about the murder of Miami Subs mogul Konstantinos ''Gus'' Boulis.

Fort Lauderdale police Detective Mark Shotwell sent the letter to lawyer Neal Sonnett Tuesday, requesting an interview with Abramoff, who was charged last week with swindling lenders in the purchase of SunCruz Casinos in 2000.

''We are very interested in speaking with Mr. Abramoff and we're glad to hear that he wants to cooperate,'' Shotwell said.

``Our position is that Jack Abramoff is high enough in the food chain that we'd very much like to speak to him and hear what he has to say. It should have happened a long time ago.''

Sonnett said his client had expected to meet with homicide investigators after Boulis was gunned down Feb. 6, 2001, as he was driving home to Hollywood on a dimly lit street in Fort Lauderdale.

''He's always been willing to cooperate,'' Sonnett said. ``There was an overture years ago by the police department, but they never followed through. Jack never knew anything about the murder case. And they know he doesn't.''

Fort Lauderdale detectives have a different take on it.

Investigators say they tried to interview Abramoff several times in the spring of 2001.

Abramoff never kept the appointments.

''We'd be all ready to meet with him on a particular day, and then something would come up, his office would say,'' Shotwell said.

'We'd get a call from his office -- `We're so sorry, but Mr. Abramoff is delayed in Washington,' or 'Mr. Abramoff would like to meet with you, but something unexpected came up.' It was one of those type things where he'd make himself available and then when the time came, he wasn't.''

Abramoff, 46, and 41-year-old Adam Kidan were charged last week with conspiracy and wire fraud for allegedly scheming to defraud two lenders in the $147 million purchase of SunCruz Casinos fleet of offshore gambling boats. Both men pleaded not guilty and are free on bond.

Police have questioned Kidan several times in the past about the gangland-style hit on the 51-year-old Boulis, gunned down at the wheel of his Mercedes-Benz just blocks from his Fort Lauderdale office.

As the SunCruz deal soured, Kidan and Boulis repeatedly threatened each other.

Now detectives hope the indictments will lead to information about Boulis' murder.

While police have not named a suspect, they believe either man could have information that might move the investigation forward.

Investigators say Kidan's attorney, Martin Jaffe, will get a letter by the end of the week requesting a similar interview.

APP.COM - 2nd N.J. legislator remits lobbyist's donation

Published in the Asbury Park Press 08/18/05
WASHINGTON — A second New Jersey congressman is returning a political donation from a Washington lobbyist indicted last week on fraud charges while another lawmaker said he plans to keep the money.

Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., plans to give back the $1,000 contribution he received in 2001 from Jack Abramoff, a former top Republican fund-raiser, according to the congressman's spokesman.

Rep. Jim Saxton, also R-N.J., already gave back a $1,000 contribution Abramoff made in 2001.

A federal grand jury in Florida indicted Abramoff on Aug. 11 on charges of committing fraud while trying to buy a casino cruise ship company. He is also at the center of an ethics probe involving his lobbying work on behalf of Indian tribes as well as trips he may have improperly provided for House Majority Leader Tom Delay, R-Texas, and other lawmakers.

"The congressman didn't feel it was appropriate to accept his donation," LoBiondo spokesman Brendan Benner said Wednesday in response to a question from Gannett News Service.

Two other New Jersey politicians and the New Jersey Republican State Committee also received contributions from Abramoff since 2000.

Republican Rep. Mike Ferguson is not going to give back the $1,000 he received in 2001, according to his spokeswoman Abby Bird.

State Sen. William Gormley, R-Atlantic, got $1,000 from Abramoff when Gormley was running for the U.S. Senate in 2000.

Abramoff also gave $5,000 to the New Jersey Republican State Committee, which state Democratic Party Chairwoman Bonnie Watson Coleman said she hopes it will return.

Abramoff has contributed more than $220,000 since 1995, almost exclusively to Republican candidates and committees, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Center spokesman Steve Weiss said only a "smattering" of those who received donations from Abramoff have returned them. It's unclear whether lawmakers, like Saxton, were uncomfortable with the allegations against Abramoff or if they were simply returning donations beyond legal limits. | 08/18/2005 | SunCruz case big portal for homicide cops


As federal prosecutors hack their way through the tangle of lies, fraudulent documents, phantom finances and double-dealing shenanigans around the purchase of the SunCruz gambling empire, homicide cops are just a few steps behind.

Jack Abramoff and Adam Kidan were indicted by the feds in Fort Lauderdale last week on charges they faked a $23 million cash down payment in 2000 when they bought the Florida-based SunCruz casino fleet from Gus Boulis. And that they deceived the lenders in the $147.5 million deal with lies and fake documents and a wad of flash money to wow the bankers.

Not that Boulis was an unwitting victim in the transaction. More likely Gus never really intended to relinquish control of his 11-boat gambling empire but was intent on a little deception of his own.

The federal government was forcing Boulis to get out of the gambling fleet business. But poor Gus seemed to be having trouble letting go of his $30 million-a-year baby.


The deal went down on Sept. 26, 2000. Boulis never got the $23 million cash specified in the loan documents. What Gus was supposed to get, instead of all that money, has never been quite clear.

Too bad the feds can't ask him. Just 133 days after the sale was closed, Boulis was permanently removed from SunCruz affairs.

On Feb. 6, 2001, as Boulis was driving away from his Fort Lauderdale office, he was murdered. Gus, at the wheel of his BMW, took three hollow-point bullets in the chest. It looked like a mob hit. But the identity of the killer and his clients have been among the details lost in the murk around SunCruz.

But the indictments of Abramoff and Kidan get federal prosecutors inside. The threat of prison terms and huge fines give them a vise to squeeze information out of the SunCruz.


Meanwhile, in Washington, another federal task force figure the pressure from the SunCruz indictments will yield evidence into an alleged influence-peddling scheme that may also implicate Abramoff and could even taint some powerful members of Congress.

The millions in this particular operation allegedly came from defrauding Indian tribes and their gambling operations.

Back in South Florida, the SunCruz case also has given Fort Lauderdale homicide detectives, still trying to solve the Boulis murder, a needed portal into the SunCruz deal. In the past, Abramoff, once one of the most influential lobbyists in Washington and was a close friend of power-broker U.S. Rep. Tom Delay, repeatedly brushed off detectives. Detective Mark Shotwell told The Herald's Wanda DeMarzo, ``We'd be all ready to meet with him on a particular day, and then something would come up . . .''


After last week's indictment, Abramoff has suddenly indicated he might find time in his busy schedule to meet with the homicide cops. The big squeeze is on.

Right behind the federal investigators and the homicide cops, yet another entity needs to get a good look at the dealings of Florida's biggest casino boat operation. State legislators passed legislation enabling casino cruises to operate here utterly unfettered by background checks or financial qualifications. They need a good look at the mess they've allowed to fester here.

Casino boat operators have set up shop in Florida after getting chased out of other states by gambling regulators. We've welcomed operators who couldn't set foot inside a Vegas casino.

With a sensible state oversight, the SunCruz deal described in last week's federal indictment would never have happened. Kidan, with some shady connections, would have been kept out of Florida. Abramoff would have had to make do with ripping off Indian casinos.

Maybe Gus Boulis would still be alive.


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