D.C. Man With Ties to Abramoff Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy

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By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 12, 2008; 1:13 PM

A former lobbyist with ties to Jack Abramoff admitted in federal court today that he helped provide an "all-expenses paid" trip to the 2003 World Series for two congressional aides to help an equipment rental company.

Among the goodies the staffers received: free airfare, a hotel stay, entertainment at a strip club and a chauffeured sport utility vehicle while in New York City, federal prosecutors said.

James Hirni, 36, of Northeast Washington, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud in connection with the baseball trip and faces between 6 months and 33 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.

Prosecutors said Hirni was a lobbyist for an unnamed equipment rental company in 2003 when he helped arrange the baseball trip for two congressional staffers -- Trevor Blackann, a former legislative assistant to Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), and an unidentified aide on the House Transportation Committee. Blackann pleaded guilty last month to filing a false tax return for not reporting more than $4,100 in gifts he received from lobbyists.

Hirni, another lobbyist and the company provided the trip to Game One of the series in New York as part of an effort to woo the staffers into helping the equipment firm with legislation, prosecutors said.

A Senate committee later passed legislation favorable to the equipment company, prosecutors said.

Hirni joined Abramoff's lobbying firm several months after the trip, court records show.

Abramoff is a former powerhouse Washington lobbyist who admitted to a wide-ranging corruption scheme that ensnared lawmakers and their aides over the years. He is serving federal prison sentences that are not expected to end until 2012.

The Florida Marlins beat the New York Yankees in Game One of the 2003 World Series, 3-2. The Marlins went on to win the Series.


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