FBI agents raided the Washington and New Orleans homes of Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.) yesterday as part of an ongoing public corruption probe, law enforcement authorities said.
Agents conducted early-morning raids at Jefferson's homes in the 1300 block of F Street in Northeast Washington and in the 1900 block of Marengo Street in New Orleans, authorities said. His car on Capitol Hill was also searched.
"There were search warrants executed today in connection with an ongoing criminal investigation," said Bryan Sierra, a Justice Department spokesman. "Since the investigation is ongoing, we would not be in a position to comment any further."
Sources familiar with the probe, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the case, said investigators were looking to see whether Jefferson used his congressional influence in business dealings.
In 1990, Jefferson, 58, became the first African American to be elected to Congress from Louisiana since Reconstruction. The eight-term congressman is a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee and its trade subcommittee.
In a statement issued through his press secretary last night, Jefferson said:
"Today federal law enforcement officers executed search warrants on my New Orleans home and Washington, D.C., home as well as my vehicle in Washington. A subpoena was issued to my office. I do not know the extent or the precise nature of this investigation but I am cooperating fully with authorities."
A source familiar with the case said the investigation had no connection to the inquiry into Jefferson's brother-in-law, Alan Green, a former state judge.
Green was convicted recently of mail fraud in a bail bond corruption case in suburban New Orleans. He was the 14th person convicted in that case, and he was accused of taking $20,000 in cash, rounds of golf and meals from a bail bondsman.
In the spring, documents were released that included a recorded conversation in which Jefferson asked Green to raise money for the congressman's daughter, who was running for the legislature in 2003. The records show that Green agreed to help.
Responding at the time to those court documents, Jefferson issued a statement saying the request for help from Green was familial.
"To my knowledge, nothing resulted from the conversation -- the campaign did not receive any money from Judge Green or anyone who may have been prompted by him to contribute -- and there were no further conversations on the matter," Jefferson said.
Besides serving on the Ways and Means Committee, Jefferson serves as co-chairman of the Africa Trade and Investment Caucus as well as the Congressional Caucuses on Brazil and Nigeria.
He is also chairman of the Board of Directors for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit public policy research and educational institute, according to his Web site.
Staff writer Dan Eggen contributed to this report.