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Lobbyist Abramoff indicted on fraud charges

Washington operative surrenders to FBI in Los Angeles


Crime, Law and Justice
Casinos and Gambling
Tom DeLay

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, an associate of several leading Republicans, was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday on fraud and conspiracy charges arising from a deal to buy Florida casino boats in 2000.

Abramoff surrendered to FBI agents in Los Angeles, California, about three hours after federal prosecutors in Miami announced the charges against him and a partner.

Abramoff has close ties to several influential GOP leaders, among them House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, Americans for Tax Reform director Grover Norquist, and former Christian Coalition chief Ralph Reed.

He also is under investigation by congressional committees and the Justice Department over allegations he and another partner swindled Indian tribes out of millions of dollars they paid to help sway lawmakers on gambling issues.

A federal grand jury in Fort Lauderdale indicted Abramoff and Adam Kidan on charges they used falsified loan applications and a counterfeit wire transfer notice to persuade lenders to support their $148 million purchase of SunCruz Casinos, which runs gambling boats out of six Florida ports.

The partners obtained $60 million in loans from two companies -- Cayman Islands-based Citadel Equity Fund Ltd. and Foothill Capital Corp., a California company -- after submitting a transfer report that falsely stated they had put up $23 million in cash as a down payment, said U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta.

"SunCruz subsequently declared bankruptcy, resulting in substantial losses," Acosta said.

Abramoff's lawyers did not return phone calls seeking comment. Kidan, who lives in the Miami area, issued a statement maintaining his innocence and calling the charges "totally unfounded."

"I have cooperated fully with the federal investigation for the past three years because I have nothing to hide," Kidan said.

Each man faces five counts of wire fraud and one conspiracy count. The maximum possible sentence on each count is five years in prison and fines up to $250,000.

According to the indictment, Abramoff and Kidan bought SunCruz when the previous owner -- south Florida businessman Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis -- was forced to sell by federal regulators who determined his lack of U.S. citizenship made him ineligible to own a casino.

The indictment accuses Kidan and Abramoff of making false statements to Citadel Equity and Foothill Capital "in order to falsely present themselves as more credit-worthy borrowers in the purchase of SunCruz than they in fact were."

While telling their lenders they had wired $23 million to Boulis as a down payment on the deal, Abramoff and Kidan actually borrowed $20 million from the casino operator to buy his company, the indictment states.

Prosecutors also allege they sent false financial statements to their lenders and misrepresented their employment experience.

SunCruz filed for bankruptcy about a year after Kidan and Abramoff purchased it in 2000. The company was recently sold to new owners by a federal bankruptcy trustee, Kidan said.

Boulis, founder of the Miami Subs restaurant chain, was shot to death in a gangland-style ambush outside his Fort Lauderdale office. The February 2001 slaying remains unsolved.

Abramoff is scheduled to make an initial appearance in federal court Friday afternoon in Los Angeles, an FBI spokeswoman said.

Other investigations

Abramoff made a fortune from the gaming operations of six Indian tribes while privately mocking tribal leaders as "monkeys" and "morons," according to e-mail obtained by a Senate committee.

Abramoff's lawyers have said he did nothing wrong and that he and his partner, Michael Scanlon, were being singled out for activities commonplace in Washington.

Abramoff's name also surfaced amid ethics questions about DeLay, a longtime friend. The Washington Post reported earlier this year that DeLay took two expensive overseas trips that Abramoff and other lobbyists bankrolled -- a violation of House rules, if true.

DeLay has denied any wrongdoing, calling the report "just another seedy attempt by the liberal media to embarrass me."

CNN's Rich Phillips, Kevin Bohn and Dree De Clamecy contributed to this report.

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