Abramoff Is Sentenced For Casino Boat Fraud

By Peter Whoriskey and William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 30, 2006

MIAMI March 29 -- Jack Abramoff, the once-powerful Washington lobbyist whose downfall has propelled a far-reaching congressional corruption investigation, was sentenced Wednesday to five years and 10 months in prison for his role in the fraudulent purchase of a fleet of casino cruise boats.

U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck sentenced Abramoff, 47, and his former partner Adam Kidan, 41, to the shortest possible prison terms under sentencing guidelines after prosecutors affirmed that both men have been aiding the ongoing investigations and had expressed remorse. Abramoff's attorneys said he has reviewed "thousands of documents" in the inquiry, which could reach members of Congress, congressional staff members and employees of federal agencies, including the Interior Department.

"They're both trying to atone by cooperating," Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence D. LaVecchio said in court.

Abramoff, dressed in a gray double-breasted suit, appeared somber and detached during the proceedings. His wife, Pam, also attended.

In a subdued monotone, he told the judge that the day was "incredibly painful" for him, as well as his family and friends.

"Over the past two years, I have started the process of becoming a new man. I am much chastened and profoundly remorseful over the reckless and hurtful things I have done in my life, especially those which have brought me before you today. I can only hope that the Almighty and those whom I have wronged will forgive me my trespasses, and that God grants me the time on this earth to make amends."

Abramoff will also face sentencing in Washington after pleading guilty in January to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials. He could receive a prison term of more than nine years on those charges, but prosecutors have agreed to recommend that the sentences from that case and the Miami case be served concurrently.

His prison time could be reduced further if he provides substantial assistance to corruption investigators, and both prosecutors and defense attorneys said he has been helpful so far.

"The literally hundreds of hours he has spent, the hundreds of thousands of documents he has reviewed, and the dozens of topics he has been assisting with in themselves would merit a sentence at the bottom of the stipulated range," attorneys Neal Sonnett and Abbe Lowell wrote in a court filing.

What he is telling investigators is not known, however.

"This is not the time to show all he's done," Lowell told the judge Wednesday. That would come later, he said, presumably when the investigation is complete and Abramoff's attorneys ask for a reduced sentence based on his cooperation.

In requesting the minimum sentence for the Florida charges, lawyers for Abramoff and Kidan laid most of the blame on the other for the gambling boat scam, in which the pair faked a $23 million wire transfer to fraudulently obtain a $60 million loan for the 2000 purchase of SunCruz Casinos. Abramoff and Kidan pleaded guilty to conspiracy and wire fraud in the case, and under sentencing guidelines, each faced a minimum of five years and 10 months and a maximum of seven years and three months in prison.

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