August 16, 2008 in Nation/World

Stevens made quick $100,000, prosecutors say

Alaska senator’s trial begins Sept. 22
By Del Quentin Wilber Washington Post
Associated Press photo

Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, the nation’s longest-serving Republican senator, speaks to supporters in Anchorage on Aug. 4.
(Full-size photo)

Lengthy career

Ted Stevens, 84, is the longest-serving Republican in the Senate and has held some of its most powerful positions, including chairmanships of the Appropriations and Commerce committees. His indictment casts a shadow over his political future. Stevens is up for re-election this year; even before he was indicted, polls showed Stevens trailing his Democratic opponent, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich.

WASHINGTON – Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, quickly turned a $5,000 Florida condo investment into a profit of more than $100,000 in a questionable transaction that federal prosecutors would like to introduce as evidence at his trial next month on charges that he lied on financial disclosure forms.

The investment and other details of investigators’ case were disclosed late Thursday in a flurry of court papers filed by prosecutors and defense lawyers gearing up for the first trial of a sitting U.S. senator in more than two decades. The trial is tentatively scheduled to start Sept. 22.

Stevens was indicted last month by a federal grand jury on charges of not reporting on Senate financial disclosure forms that he accepted more than $250,000 in gifts and home renovations from executives of VECO, a now defunct oil services company in Alaska. Prosecutors allege that Stevens helped VECO and its executives on a variety of federal and state issues.

VECO’s former chief executive, Bill Allen, pleaded guilty last year to bribing public officials and is expected to testify at Stevens’ trial.

In court papers filed Thursday, prosecutors revealed new details about ties between VECO’s executives and Stevens. Among the revelations: Prosecutors possess tape-recorded conversations in which Stevens said he would help VECO executives with stalled state legislation needed to authorize construction of a natural gas pipeline.

In one tape-recorded call, Stevens told Allen that he and one of his sons – then the Alaska state Senate president – would “try to see if I can get some bigwigs from back here to go up there and say, ‘Look, you just gotta make up your mind, you gotta get this done,’ ” prosecutors wrote.

Stevens himself later urged a state Senate committee to pass the pipeline legislation, prosecutors wrote.

In 2001, prosecutors wrote, Stevens and an unidentified friend were involved in the Florida condo deal that resulted in a massive profit for the senator.

Stevens was required to put down 10 percent of the $360,000 sales price. Stevens only invested $5,000, prosecutors alleged, and received a $31,000 interest-free loan from the friend to make up the difference. The friend was a partner in the development company, prosecutors wrote.

Within a few months, Stevens sold the condo for $515,000 and eventually repaid the $31,000 loan, prosecutors wrote. Stevens never disclosed the interest-free loan on his Senate financial disclosure statements, they wrote.

Stevens’ lawyers did not respond to messages seeking comment on the new allegations.

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