Aide to Ex-Rep. Weldon Gets Home Detention for Fraud
Friday, July 31, 2009
The chief of staff to former representative Curt Weldon was sentenced to home detention and probation Thursday for trying to help a consulting firm obtain federal money while concealing payments the nonprofit group had made to his wife.
Russell James Caso Jr., 36, pleaded guilty in 2007 to one count of honest services fraud for failing to note on 2005 financial disclosure statements that the firm had paid his wife $19,000 for editing work.
Caso could have faced prison time. But federal prosecutors recommended that U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy sentence Caso to home detention and probation because he cooperated with authorities in this probe and others. Weldon, a Pennsylvania Republican, was the subject of a grand jury investigation in 2006, according to media reports. He has not been charged with a crime.
Calling Caso's actions "truly criminal," Kennedy said he was adopting prosecutors' recommendations because the former congressional staff member was so helpful to investigators. The judge then sentenced Caso to 170 days of home detention and three years of probation. Caso, who lives in Georgia, apologized for his conduct, saying he had "made a serious error in judgment."
In court papers, Caso admitted that he intentionally did not report his wife's work for International Exchange Group. He also knew the nonprofit firm was overpaying for her services, the court papers say.
The firm wanted federal funding for programs promoting cooperation in joint missile-defense activities with Russia and reducing the risk of Russian biological and chemical weapons falling into the hands of rogue nations.
Weldon, a strong supporter of International Exchange Group, directed Caso to organize and attend meetings with executive branch officials to promote the firm's proposals, prosecutors said in court papers.
Caso did not report his wife's work for International Exchange Group because he didn't want to expose the conflict-of-interest or embarrass Weldon during a tough 2006 re-election campaign, which Weldon lost.
Federal prosecutors filed sealed court papers that detailed Caso's cooperation in "ongoing" investigations.