Former Lobbyist Is Charged With Trying To Destroy Evidence
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
A former lobbyist and close friend of former congressman Curt Weldon was charged yesterday with trying to destroy potential evidence in the federal investigation of the Pennsylvania Republican.
The lobbyist, Cecilia M. Grimes, is accused of throwing away documents sought by FBI agents as part of their probe into Weldon's ties to lobbying and consulting firms. She is the second person to be charged in the investigation.
Grimes, 43, was charged in a "criminal information," a document that can be filed only with the defendant's consent and which usually signals that a plea deal is near. She is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court on July 25. Grimes and her lawyer did not respond to phone messages seeking comment.
The charging documents allege no wrongdoing by Weldon, identified in the court papers as "Representative A," although they make clear they are describing the Pennsylvania Republican. Weldon's lawyer did not respond to a phone message seeking comment.
The court papers do not accuse Grimes of trying to influence Weldon, but they provide hints about the scope of the investigation of the 10-term congressman, who lost a reelection bid in 2006. The documents said federal agents were investigating whether Weldon "agreed to support appropriations requests made by Firm A as a quid pro quo from the payment of fees to Firm A and its clients." Grimes is identified as a partner in "Firm A."
The documents allege that Grimes tried to throw away evidence in October 2006, days after FBI agents visited her home in Parkesburg, Pa., to question her and to serve her with a grand jury subpoena demanding records connected to her clients, her travel, Weldon and his campaigns.
FBI agents later recovered some of the requested documents in trash bags in front of her house, according to the papers.
Among the records recovered from the trash: "RSVP cards and envelopes for a dinner honoring Representative A, calling for responses to be sent to Grimes."
The charging papers also allege that Grimes threw her BlackBerry into a trash can near a fast-food restaurant so the FBI would not be able to inspect her e-mail messages.
The papers say Grimes was one of two partners in lobbying "Firm A," which submitted appropriations requests to Weldon's office and to other members of Congress. Grimes was listed in lobbying records at the time as president of two firms, Grimes and Young Inc., and CC Nexus LLC. Both are based in Pennsylvania.
In December, Weldon's former chief of staff, Russell James Caso Jr., pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge that he helped a consulting firm championed by Weldon obtain federal funds and that he concealed money the firm paid his wife. He has not been sentenced.
Staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.