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Lobbyist Abramoff posts bond

Washington insider faces federal fraud and conspiracy charges

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Tom DeLay
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, an associate of several influential GOP figures, appeared in federal court Friday on wire fraud and conspiracy charges and was released on $2.25 million bond.

Abramoff and a partner were indicted Thursday by a grand jury in Florida on charges they misled lenders and forged a key document used to obtain loans for the 2000 purchase of a casino boat venture.

When asked by U.S. District Court Judge Phil Game Jr. if he understood the charges against him, Abramoff said, "Yes, sir."

Abramoff -- handcuffed and wearing a white polo shirt -- surrendered his passport, and Game told him he is allowed only to travel in the Los Angeles area, south Florida and Maryland.

The judge also told Abramoff he needs to maintain his "course of mental health treatment."

Abramoff is scheduled to appear Tuesday morning in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where a grand jury returned an indictment against him and Adam Kidan, his partner in the 2000 purchase of SunCruz Casinos. (Full story)

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

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

He is a longtime associate of several influential Republican figures, including House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, and former Christian Coalition Executive Director Ralph Reed.

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

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

The grand jury in Fort Lauderdale accused Abramoff and Kidan with using 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, Foothill Capital Corp. and Citadel Equity Fund Ltd., after submitting a transfer report that falsely stated they had put up $23 million in cash as a down payment, U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta said Thursday.

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

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 partner Michael Scanlon are being singled out for activities that are commonplace in Washington.

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

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