By CURT ANDERSON, Associated Press Writer1 hour, 1 minute ago
Disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison in a Florida fraud case, the minimum sentence allowed.
Abramoff and former partner Adam Kidan pleaded guilty to conspiracy and wire fraud stemming from the ill-fated purchase in 2000 of the SunCruz Casinos gambling fleet.
The sentence won’t start immediately so the pair can continue cooperating in a Washington corruption investigation and a Florida probe into the murder of former SunCruz owner Konstantinos “Gus” Boulis.
Before the hearing, more than 260 people — including rabbis, military officers and even a professional hockey referee — wrote letters on the men’s behalf asking the federal judge for leniency.
The letters, obtained by The Associated Press, put a new spin on the foibles and crimes of a man who became the face of Washington’s latest corruption scandal.
“Jack is a good person, who in his quest to be successful, lost sight of the rules,” National Hockey League referee Dave Jackson wrote, describing the time Abramoff brought 14 youngsters to his dressing room before a game.
Kidan, in his own letter to the judge, said he knew the SunCruz deal was wrong but said he “was very caught up in the fast paced world of my partner and the high profile that came along with it.” He added, “I am not the horrible person that the media has written about.”
In the Florida case, Abramoff and Kidan admitted concocting a fake $23 million wire transfer to make it appear they had made a large cash contribution to the $147.5 million purchase of SunCruz Casinos. Based on that fake transfer, lenders provided the pair with $60 million in financing.
The same week Abramoff pleaded guilty to the SunCruz fraud, he entered guilty pleas to three federal charges as part of a wide-ranging corruption probe that could involve up to 20 members of Congress and aides, including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. No date has been set for his sentencing in that case.
Abramoff, 47, and Kidan, 41, are also expected to give statements in the investigation into the Feb. 6, 2001, slaying of Boulis, who was gunned down at the wheel of his car amid a power struggle over the gambling fleet. Three men face murder charges, including one who worked for Kidan as a consultant at SunCruz and who allegedly has ties to New York’s Gambino crime family.
Both Abramoff and Kidan have repeatedly denied any role in or knowledge of the Boulis murder. But prosecutors say Kidan has not been ruled out as a suspect and defense attorneys say Abramoff could provide critical inside information about the dispute with Boulis, who also founded the Miami Subs restaurant chain.
Source: AP via Yahoo! News