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Abramoff to Plead Guilty in Fla. Fraud

January 4, 2006

MIAMI (AP) _ A day after pleading guilty to three felonies, once-powerful lobbyist Jack Abramoff faced another federal court hearing over fraud charges stemming from his purchase of a Florida gambling boat fleet.

At a hearing Wednesday afternoon, Jack Abramoff was set to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud and one count of wire fraud stemming from the SunCruz casino deal, said his attorney, Neal Sonnett.

The plea was part of an agreement with prosecutors requiring him to cooperate in a broad corruption investigation into members of Congress. On Tuesday, Abramoff, 46, pleaded guilty in federal court in Washington to mail fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion charges.

The plea agreement in Florida calls for a maximum sentence of just more than seven years, but the sentence could be reduced if he cooperates fully and would run simultaneously with whatever sentence is imposed in the Washington corruption case, Sonnett said. The remaining four counts in the Florida indictment would be dismissed.

Former Abramoff partner Adam Kidan, 41, pleaded guilty on Dec. 15 and faces sentencing March 1.

One participant in the casino deal was later murdered in a mob-style hit; three men were charged last fall. Both Abramoff and Kidan have denied involvement in the slaying.

The wide-ranging corruption probe could involve up to 20 members of Congress and aides, including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas.

President Bush joined several lawmakers, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, in announcing plans to donate Abramoff’s campaign contributions to charity. Bush’s re-election campaign is giving up $6,000 donated by Abramoff, his wife and one of the Indian tribes Abramoff represented.

As an honorary ``pioneer″ fundraiser for the Bush-Cheney ’04 re-election campaign, Abramoff helped raise over $100,000.

Abramoff won’t be going to jail right away. He probably won’t be sentenced for several months because he has to cooperate with the government corruption investigation. And even then, he’ll probably be permitted to surrender.

A copy of the eight-page plea agreement, obtained by The Associated Press before the hearing, requires that Abramoff testify before any grand jury or court proceeding that prosecutors request and provide any documents they might want.

In return, the agreement says, the government will not further prosecute the defendant for anything he discloses ``in debriefing sessions with attorneys and agents of the United States.″

Abramoff and Kidan will admit to concocting a false $23 million wire transfer making it appear they contributed a sizable stake of their own cash into the $147.5 million purchase of SunCruz Casinos from Miami businessman Konstantinos ``Gus″ Boulis, Sonnett said.

Based on that transfer, lenders Foothill Capital Corp. and Citadel Equity Fund Ltd. provided $60 million for the deal.

A few months after the SunCruz sale, Boulis was slain in a gangland-style hit after leaving his Fort Lauderdale office. Three men, one of them a former associate of Kidan’s who has ties to New York’s Gambino crime family, were arrested in September on state murder charges.

The three men charged in the murder have pleaded not guilty.