Federal prosecutors have all but finalized a plea agreement with a second business partner of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff in exchange for cooperation in the ongoing criminal investigations of Abramoff, congressional aides and Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio), lawyers in the case said yesterday.
Adam Kidan, a longtime confidant of Abramoff's, has agreed to testify against Abramoff in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., next month when he is to face trial on fraud and conspiracy charges in connection with their purchase of a fleet of Florida casino boats. A Kidan plea would tie Abramoff's legal troubles in Florida more closely to the Washington investigation into his lobbying practices, pressuring Abramoff to reach a deal of his own that could implicate members of Congress and other government officials, lawyers involved in the case said.
More than two weeks ago, another Abramoff business partner -- public relations executive Michael Scanlon -- reached a plea deal in Washington and agreed to cooperate in the wide-ranging bribery probe.
Kidan, who has known Abramoff since their student days when they were members of the College Republicans, has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and wire fraud in connection with the purchase of the SunCruz fleet in the fall of 2000.
"Adam will testify against Abramoff and Ney if he is given an opportunity to do so," said Joseph Conway, an attorney for Kidan.
Prosecutors in the case declined to comment. Abramoff's Florida trial is scheduled for Jan. 9. A hearing for Kidan to enter a new plea has been scheduled for next week, a development reported yesterday in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "We don't have a signed plea agreement yet," Conway said. "It is certainly going that way, but it is not totally done yet."
Stephen L. Braga, Scanlon's attorney, said: "That's a very surprising development that will only increase pressure on Mr. Abramoff to cut a deal."
Neal Sonnett, a Florida lawyer representing Abramoff in the SunCruz case, declined to say whether his client is in plea negotiations with the government. Andrew Blum, a spokesman for Abramoff's Washington attorneys, also declined to comment on whether plea negotiations are underway.
Prosecutors have told Ney they are preparing a possible bribery indictment against him over official acts that benefited clients of Abramoff. Ney inserted comments in the Congressional Record at Scanlon's request praising Kidan and castigating the reputation of SunCruz's then-owner, Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis, during contentious purchase negotiations. Six weeks ago, prosecutors got agreements from Abramoff, Kidan, Ney and former Ney aide Neil Volz to suspend the five-year statute of limitations while the investigation continues.
Ney's spokesman declined to comment. Ney has said he was defrauded by Abramoff and Scanlon.
Ney placed a newspaper ad in his district this month saying that he has asked the House ethics committee to investigate the Abramoff allegations but that he has not heard from the panel. "I recognize that questions have been raised in recent months regarding my association with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff," Ney said in the ad. "As I await the opportunity to clear my name and as I continue to get attacked by the media and my political opponents, I am working as hard as ever on behalf of those that I represent."
Abramoff and Kidan were indicted in August by a federal grand jury in Fort Lauderdale on five counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy relating to their $147.5 million SunCruz purchase. Prosecutors alleged that Abramoff and Kidan faked a wire transfer of $23 million -- the down payment they had agreed to put into the deal. The $23 million became the subject of a dispute between the Abramoff group and Boulis.
Boulis was killed in a gangland-style hit in Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 6, 2001. Three men -- Anthony Moscatiello, Anthony Ferrari and James Fiorillo -- were charged last month in the Boulis murder. Kidan had hired Moscatiello and Ferrari to provide catering and surveillance services to SunCruz.
Moscatiello, identified by authorities as a former bookkeeper for the Gambino crime family, asserted after his arrest that Ferrari had admitted to him that he and another man killed Boulis after getting a call from Kidan, according to court filings. Conway declined to comment on the Moscatiello assertions.
Abramoff's SunCruz world frequently overlapped with his lobbying activities. For example, as the casino deal was closing, Abramoff introduced then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) to his lender in a private box at FedEx Field. DeLay's deputy chief of staff, Tony Rudy, was listed as a reference on loan papers, as was Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.). Kidan attended an exclusive party in DeLay's office on Inauguration Day 2001 in Washington. During the purchase negotiations, Boulis received from DeLay's office a flag that had flown over the Capitol.
a lawyer says.