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The Legal Woes Of Rep. Jefferson

In August, U.S. agents hauled away documents after a search warrant was executed at Jefferson's New Orleans home.
In August, U.S. agents hauled away documents after a search warrant was executed at Jefferson's New Orleans home. (By Ted Jackson -- New Orleans Times-picayune Via Associated Press)

Jefferson was raised in Lake Providence, La., one of 10 children. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1972 and served in the state Senate before he was elected to the House in 1990. He is married and is the father of five grown daughters.

As a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee and co-chairman of the Africa Trade and Investment Caucus and the congressional caucuses on Brazil and Nigeria, Jefferson has carved out a niche in Third World trade issues, and he has traveled extensively on privately and publicly funded trips.

"He's someone respected for doing his homework on issues," said Silas Lee, a New Orleans political analyst. "He's viewed as a very serious, very studious person."

Pfeffer, who faces as much as 20 years in prison, paints a different picture of Jefferson, for whom he worked as a legislative aide from 1995 to 1998.

According to court documents and law enforcement sources, Pfeffer, 37, became president of W2 Corp., an investment company that was owned by Lori Mody, a wealthy Vienna, Va., woman. Mody, 41, is the founder of Win-Win Strategies Foundation, whose mission includes helping needy children learn about the high-tech world.

In early 2004, Pfeffer told Jefferson about his new investment job, court records show. Jefferson told Pfeffer about a telecommunications opportunity in Nigeria and about iGate, which held the rights to a technology that enabled copper wires to transport high-speed Internet service to a wide array of consumers.

In mid-2004, Pfeffer brought Mody to Jefferson's office in Washington. There she was introduced to the founder of iGate, who has since been identified as Vernon Jackson. Not long after, Mody's company entered into a licensing and distribution agreement with iGate for the exclusive rights to market and distribute the company's technology in Nigeria.

Mody agreed to invest $45 million for the exclusive rights to iGate's technology and equipment for the Nigerian deal. She put up $3.5 million and agreed to finance the balance through the Export-Import Bank of the United States, a government-run agency that promotes U.S. business exports.

Afterward, Pfeffer told Mody that Jefferson would expect compensation for his "official assistance on the Nigerian deal," according to court documents.

In summer 2004, Pfeffer, Mody, Jefferson and others met in New Orleans at the law firm of one of Jefferson's daughters, who provided the legal work for the business deal. While in the lobby of the law firm, Jefferson approached Pfeffer in private and told him that he would require 5 to 7 percent of Mody's new Nigerian company, the court document said.

Later, in a phone conversation, Jefferson told Pfeffer that he wanted a family member to be put on the payroll of the Nigerian company and to receive about $2,500 to $5,000 in monthly payments, court documents said.

"Pfeffer understood that [Jefferson] was soliciting a bribe in exchange" for the congressman's assistance in "official acts," including influencing high-ranking officials in the Nigerian government via trips and correspondences, and meeting with officials of the Export-Import Bank to help secure financing, the court document said.

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