WASHINGTON – Michael Scanlon, a former partner of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to bribe public officials, a charge growing out of the government investigation of attempts to defraud Indian tribes and corrupt a member of Congress.
At the same time, it was disclosed that Scanlon, a former aide to Rep. Tom DeLay, has been cooperating in a widening criminal investigation of members of Congress since June.
Scanlon entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle and was ordered to pay restitution totaling more than $19 million to Indian tribes that he admitted had been defrauded while he and Abramoff represented them.
Abramoff and Scanlon were paid more than $80 million between 2001 and 2004 by six American Indian tribes with casinos.
One of Scanlon’s lawyers, Plato Cacheris, disclosed outside the courthouse after the plea that his client has been cooperating with the prosecution for the past five months.
“There have been a lot of conversations” between Scanlon and the Justice Department starting in June, Cacheris said in a brief interview Monday night.
In an eight-page statement of facts, Scanlon agreed that he and an unidentified person referred to as Lobbyist A “provided a stream of things of value to public officials in exchange for a series of official acts.”
The items to one unidentified congressman or his staff included all-expense-paid trips to the Northern Marianas Islands in 2000, a trip to the Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., in 2001 and a golf trip to Scotland in 2002.
Based on information already placed on the public record by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Lobbyist A is Abramoff and the congressman is Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio.
“Any allegation that Rep. Ney did anything illegal or improper is false,” the congressman’s office said in a statement. Calls to the office of Abramoff’s lawyer were not immediately returned.
On Friday, Scanlon was charged with conspiracy. On Monday, the Justice Department’s statement of facts that Scanlon signed went considerably beyond the earlier charging document, revealing that trips, tickets to sporting events and campaign contributions went to other public officials besides Ney in exchange for official acts.
The statement of facts said Scanlon and Lobbyist A provided items of value to public officials in exchange for “agreements to support and pass legislation, agreements to place statements in the Congressional Record, agreements to contact personnel in the United States Executive Branch agencies and offices to influence decisions of those agencies and offices.”
A representative of the inspector general’s office in the Interior Department was seated at the prosecutors’ table in the courtroom.
The statement by Ney’s office said many of the things suggested to have occurred in the statement of facts “did not actually take place”
“Whenever Rep. Ney took official action, actions similar to those taken by elected representatives every day as part of the normal, appropriate government process, he did so based on his best understanding of what was right and not based on any improper influence,” the statement added.
“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.”