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Prosecutors Opt for Wide Probe of Rep. Ney

Washington Post, April 29, 2006:
Federal prosecutors signaled this week that they have decided to pursue a wide range of allegations about dealings between Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) and lobbyist Jack Abramoff, rather than bringing a narrowly focused bribery case against the congressman.


Court papers filed in recent months show that prosecutors have lined up at least four cooperating witnesses against the Ohio congressman: Abramoff, former congressional aides Michael Scanlon and Tony C. Rudy, and businessman Adam Kidan. All have pleaded guilty to various conspiracy, fraud or public corruption charges.

The court filings that accompanied the plea agreements of Abramoff, Scanlon and Rudy accused Ney of accepting "a stream of things of value" in exchange for official actions.

Prosecutors signaled their intentions with Ney by identifying him as "Representative #1" in pleadings filed with the court. In October, Ney was formally notified that he was under criminal investigation, and at the prosecutors' request he agreed to extend the five-year statute of limitations for six months while they investigated possible bribery charges.

Ney's actions involving the cruise line could still expose him to criminal liability if the government brings a conspiracy case against him, legal analysts said. In that instance, the statute of limitations is pegged to the date of the last alleged criminal act in a chain, not the first.

Ney's involvement with the cruise line took place in 2000, when Abramoff and partners Kidan and Ben Waldman were in difficult negotiations to buy SunCruz Casinos from Fort Lauderdale businessman Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis. Ney placed comments in the Congressional Record that year that first put pressure on Boulis to sell to the Abramoff group, and later praised the new owners as Boulis was complaining he had been cheated in the sale.

Boulis was killed in a gangland-style hit in early 2001. Three men with ties to Kidan and to the Gambino crime family face murder charges in the slaying.

Ney was also involved with Abramoff and his lobbying team on other issues under federal investigation. In 2002, Ney sponsored legislation at the team's request to reopen a casino for a Texas Indian tribe that Abramoff represented, and approved a 2002 license for an Abramoff client to wire the House of Representatives for mobile phone service.

At the same time, Ney accepted many favors from Abramoff, among them campaign contributions, dinners at the lobbyist's downtown restaurant, skybox fundraisers -- including one at his then-MCI Center box the month after Boulis's murder -- and a lavish golf junket to Scotland in August 2002.

Ney was directly implicated by three of the four who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and bribery charges: Abramoff, Scanlon and Rudy. Kidan's attorney said his client also would testify against Ney if asked.

The allegations against Ney have taken a toll on his political career and his prospects for reelection.

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