By Susan Schmidt
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Jack Abramoff, the former lobbyist blamed for a corruption scandal that contributed to the Republican loss of Congress last week, is scheduled to report to federal prison today.
Abramoff, 47, will begin serving a sentence of five years and 10 months at a minimum-security prison camp in Cumberland, Md., for defrauding banks of $23 million in his purchase of a Florida casino cruise line six years ago.
Abramoff has also pleaded guilty in Washington to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials. He is to be sentenced in that case next year, after he completes his cooperation with the Justice Department's wide-ranging investigation of his dealings with officials in Congress and executive-branch agencies.
Once a powerhouse in the Republican effort to dominate K Street, Abramoff has become a symbol of lobbying greed and excess. Eight people have been convicted or have pleaded guilty in connection with his schemes, including former Ohio representative Robert W. Ney.
Abramoff could receive a prison term of more than nine years on the Washington conviction, but prosecutors are expected to recommend a lower sentence based on what they have said is his substantial assistance in the ongoing probe. They have also agreed to recommend that the sentences from the Washington and Miami cases be served concurrently.
People involved in the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that Abramoff was to be sent to Cumberland. The federal Bureau of Prisons declined to comment. The Cumberland facility contains a medium-security prison and a minimum-security prison camp, where 320 inmates with sentences of less than 10 years live in dormitories. Most inmates at the Cumberland facilities have been convicted of drug charges, according to the Bureau of Prisons.
White House political adviser Karl Rove has blamed the Republican defeat at the polls last week on the Abramoff scandal and other ethics allegations involving members of Congress. Rove said that of the 28 House seats Republicans lost, 10 were lost because of ethics scandals and six were lost because incumbents did not react quickly enough to the issue. The October congressional page scandal involving Republican congressman Mark Foley of Florida "revived all the stuff about Abramoff and added to it," Rove told The Washington Post in a recent interview.
Andrew Blum, a spokesman for Abramoff's lawyers, declined to discuss prison arrangements. "We are still working on the logistics of the Miami sentence and cannot provide any additional comment other than that," Blum said.
Abramoff's business partner in the Florida cruise line purchase, Adam Kidan, received the same sentence and reported to prison in New Jersey last month. He is expected to testify as a government witness early next year in the Florida state trial of three men accused in connection with the gangland-style murder of the man who sold them the cruise line, SunCruz Casinos.
Abramoff and Kidan admitted to conspiracy and wire fraud in preparing a counterfeit $23 million wire transfer to fraudulently obtain a $60 million loan.