Ex-Abramoff partner enters guilty plea

Scanlon charged in bribery conspiracy case


WASHINGTON -- Promising to cooperate fully in a burgeoning federal investigation that has engulfed Congress, a former partner of lobbyist Jack Abramoff entered a guilty plea yesterday to a charge that he and the lobbyist conspired to bribe public officials, including a senior Republican member of Congress, and defrauded Indian tribes of millions of dollars.

"Guilty, your honor," Michael P.S. Scanlon told U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle, pleading to one criminal conspiracy count leveled against him.

Scanlon faces up to five years in prison and agreed to make restitution of $19.6 million, half the amount that prosecutors say he and Abramoff split in profits from four Indian tribes.

He was released on a $5 million unsecured bond agreement and must give notice to the court and prosecutors before traveling out of the country.

The actual sentence to be imposed on Scanlon, a one-time aide to then-Majority Whip Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, is dependent on cooperation in the continuing investigation, said one of his attorneys, Stephen Braga.

In the 18-page plea agreement made public after the hearing, prosecutors detailed evidence against Scanlon that would have been presented had his case gone to trial. He and his lawyers agreed to all of the evidence. The new items include details on trips and other gifts made to the member of Congress and members of his staff.

The documents describe the recipient as "Representative 1." Details in the plea agreement describe actions taken by Rep. Robert Ney, an Ohio Republican who leads the House Administration Committee. He has repeatedlydenied any wrongdoing.

"Any allegation that Rep. Ney did anything illegal or improper is false," his spokesman, Brian J. Walsh, said in a written statement. "This plea agreement mentions a number of unsubstantiated allegations, but in fact, many of the things suggested to have occurred did not actually take place."

Walsh said that whatever steps Ney took, "he did so based on his best understanding of what was right and not based on any improper influence. All that this plea agreement shows is that Mr. Scanlon had a deliberate, secret, and well-concealed scheme to defraud many people, and it appears, unfortunately, that Rep. Ney was one of the many people defrauded."

Scanlon's guilty plea is the latest development in a long-standing criminal investigation into Senate allegations that Abramoff defrauded Indian tribes with casino gambling interests of million of dollars in fees. Abramoff has not been charged in the case.

Another former Abramoff colleague, David Safavian, was charged last month with obstructing a federal investigation and lying to a federal investigator. He has entered a not guilty plea but stepped down from his post in the Bush administration.

Scanlon was a spokesman for DeLay, who was the House Majority Whip, when he left the public payroll to join forces with Abramoff in early 2000. He eventually formed his own firm, Capitol Campaign Strategies, which was one of the entities through which much of the $53 million in total payments from the Indian tribes flowed.

The relationship among Abramoff, Scanlon and Ney became evident through testimony and documents over the past year before the Senate Indian Affairs Commiittee.

Walter F. Roche Jr. and Chuck Neubauer write for the Los Angeles Times.

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