GOP environmental activist pleads guilty, admits lying about Abramoff ties
Deal may lead to charges against more Bush officials
"The founder of a Republican environmental organization pleaded guilty Friday to charges "of tax evasion and obstruction of justice as part of the continuing federal criminal investigation into lobbying practices in the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal."
"Italia Federici, president of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, allegedly failed to pay more than $77,000 in federal income taxes from 2001 to 2003," Richard A. Serrano reported for the LA Times Thursday.
She was also cited for making 'false and fictitious' statements before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in 2005, which was investigating Abramoff's representation of Native American tribes."
"Federici becomes the 11th person, including Griles, ex-Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and several Congressional staffers, to plead guilty in the ongoing Abramoff investigation. Abramoff is in prison on a separate charge but has yet to be sentenced in the Washington, D.C.-based investigation and is cooperating with prosecutors," Rachel Van Dongen and Paul Singer reported for Roll Call Thursday.
According to an Associated Press report Friday, "Federici's plea was part of a deal with the Justice Department that two people close to the case said could lead investigators to officials in Congress and the Bush administration."
"Federici served as a go-between for Abramoff, who currently is in prison, and J. Steven Griles, a deputy Interior secretary who also has pleaded guilty to lying to Senate investigators," John Heilprin reports for the AP. "In court Friday, Federici acknowledged lying about this relationship when she testified before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which in 2005 was investigating Abramoff's dealings with the Interior Department."
The wire service notes that the sources "believe Federici may be able to provide information about [former Interior secretary Gale] Norton, other Bush administration officials and the contacts that she, Abramoff and Griles cultivated in Congress."
Excerpts from Thursday's LA Times article:
Federici's lawyers said Wednesday that she would plead guilty to both charges. Federici "regrets her failure … to pay her individual income taxes" and "regrets her past trust and confidence in Jack Abramoff," said a statement by Jonathan N. Rosen and Noam B. Fischman.
Federal investigators have alleged that Federici acted as Abramoff's liaison to the Interior Department in helping tribes get meetings with top officials in return for high fees charged by the lobbyist. He is now serving a nearly six-year prison term. According to the charges filed Wednesday, Federici founded the environmental council in 1997 in Colorado with the help of Gale A. Norton, who later became secretary of the Interior under President Bush.
The charges said that much of the seed money for the group came from an inheritance that Federici received and that over the years she often paid herself back by directly withdrawing funds from the group's bank account "through ATM and teller transactions." From 2001 through 2003, the charges state, she received a taxable income of $233,955, and failed to pay the $77,243 in taxes she owed.
FULL LA TIMES ARTICLE CAN BE READ AT THIS LINK