Nicholas J. Bush, ousted from his job as president of the Natural Gas Supply Association earlier this year amid allegations of financial wrongdoing, now faces criminal charges in U.S. District Court here, prosecutors said.
Bush, a lobbyist, is charged with bilking the trade group of more than $2.8 million by cashing in on bogus consulting contracts issued between 1987 and 1999. Prosecutors said he created phony consulting agreements, had a series of checks issued and then channeled the money into bank accounts that he controlled.
Prosecutors charged Bush with one count each of mail fraud and tax evasion. The allegations mirror those contained in a civil suit filed against Bush by the trade group, which represents the nation's largest gas producers.
Bush, who had a salary of more than $300,000 a year, was ordered to leave his office in February after questions were raised about the consulting payments. He is accused of submitting a host of false expense requests for lobbying and other services that supposedly were performed by three consultants.
The checks were issued to James W.O. Rogers, a Colorado real estate agent; James Rosebush, former chief of staff to first lady Nancy Reagan; and Kenneth Duberstein, a chief of staff during the Reagan administration. All three men have said they had no idea that Bush was using their names, adding that their firms did no work for the trade group and got no money. Prosecutors said Bush took the checks and used the proceeds for personal expenses. At the same time, he allegedly hid the payments from the Internal Revenue Service.
Bush, 53, of McLean, is due in court within the next few weeks, although no date has been set. Bush's attorney, William J. Murphy, declined comment about the charges.
Prosecutors filed what is known as a "criminal information" last week, which is different from a grand jury indictment. They can file such a document only with the defendant's consent. The action means that Bush has waived his right to have evidence presented to a grand jury, which would have independently weighed the government's case before deciding whether to indict him.
The filing of a criminal information often signals a defendant's intention to ultimately plead guilty and cooperate with investigators. Prosecutors declined to say whether a guilty plea has been negotiated with Bush.