Abramoff is given nearly six years

Former D.C. lobbyist sentenced for fraud in gambling ship deal

March 30, 2006|By JOHN-THOR DAHLBURG | JOHN-THOR DAHLBURG,LOS ANGELES TIMES

MIAMI -- Former Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff was sentenced yesterday to five years and 10 months in federal prison for business fraud but was allowed to remain free for three months so that he can continue to assist a wide-ranging investigation into corruption and influence-peddling on Capitol Hill.

Abramoff and a former business partner, Adam Kidan, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy and wire fraud in their purchase of the SunCruz Casinos fleet of gambling ships in 2000.

Both were given the minimum sentence recommended under federal guidelines by U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck after a federal prosecutor told the judge that he had found the two men genuinely remorseful and cooperative.

Abramoff and Kidan were also ordered to make restitution of more than $21 million. Both had admitted forging a wire transfer to make it appear that they had committed a large sum of their own money to the $147.5 million SunCruz purchase. Based on the forgery, lenders contributed $60 million in financing.

Abramoff pleaded guilty in the SunCruz fraud in January. The same week, he pleaded guilty in Washington to defrauding Indian tribes and other lobbying clients out of millions of dollars.

He also agreed to cooperate in a corruption investigation that could involve up to 20 members of Congress, including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas. No date has been set for his sentencing in that case.

In a brief statement read in court, Abramoff, 47, apologized for what he called his "reckless" actions.

"This day is incredibly painful for my family, my friends and myself," said the former Washington powerbroker. "In the past two years, I've started the process of becoming a new man."

`Remorseful'

Kidan, 41, told the judge he was "completely remorseful and apologetic" and that he wished he could turn back time.

Abramoff was sentenced on the day that the Senate passed ethics reform legislation that would impose new rules for the relationship between lawmakers and lobbyists, a measure that was largely inspired by the widespread Abramoff scandal.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence LaVecchio requested that Abramoff and Kidan be allowed to remain free for 180 days before they began serving their prison sentences so that they could continue helping prosecutors and the FBI in the Washington corruption investigation and in a Florida investigation of the gangland-style killing of SunCruz's former owner, Konstantinos Boulis. Huck gave the government half of what it sought.

"I think we can revisit this in 90 days," said the judge, who kept the half-hour sentencing hearing moving briskly. Earlier, Huck turned down a government request that could have delayed sentencing until June.

Plea bargain

The plea bargain that Abramoff made with federal prosecutors in January commits him to "providing truthful and complete information and testimony, and producing documents, records and other evidence" at any trial or grand jury proceeding federal officials want him to attend.

Under that deal, he and Kidan could have been sentenced to more than seven years in prison.

In Washington, Abramoff has been cooperating with federal prosecutors in a corruption investigation that is focused on whether at least a half-dozen members of Congress and several aides traded legislative action for lavish trips, gifts and campaign contributions orchestrated by Ambraoff.

Guilty pleas

In January, Abramoff pleaded guilty to three federal felonies stemming from his activities as a lobbyist who once had easy access to Washington's corridors of power.

Last Thursday, a Florida circuit judge agreed to subpoena Abramoff and Kidan in the Feb. 6, 2001, killing of Boulis, a self-made millionaire who was gunned down shortly after leaving his Fort Lauderdale office.

Lawyers for Kidan and Abramoff have said that their clients had nothing to do with the shooting, but state prosecutors haven't ruled out Kidan as a suspect.

A Broward County grand jury has indicted three men on charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy, including Anthony Moscatiello, who has admitted ties to the Gambino crime family and was also connected to companies that were paid $145,000 in consulting fees by Kidan when he was in charge of SunCruz.

John-Thor Dahlburg writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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