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Businessman pleads guilty to bribing congressman

From Terry Frieden
CNN Washington Bureau

YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS

Justice Department
William Jefferson
Louisiana
House of Representatives

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A businessman pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to paying more than $400,000 in bribes to a U.S. congressman.

Government sources identified the lawmaker as Rep. William Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat who has denied any wrongdoing. He has not been charged.

Vernon Jackson, 53, of Louisville, Kentucky, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, to a two-count charge of conspiracy to commit bribery and payment of bribes to a public official.

He agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors investigating Jefferson's activities related to telecommunications deals in Africa and elsewhere.

Jackson faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000 under terms of the plea agreement.

He is chairman and CEO of iGate Inc., a firm that develops high-tech equipment.

A Justice Department statement said Jackson gained a congressman's help in promoting his products that made them eligible for federal contracts. Jackson's firm won a contract with the U.S. Army.

Sources confirmed Jefferson is the congressman who allegedly received bribes in the case, but documents refer to the recipient only as "Representative A."

In the plea agreement, Jackson admits "Representative A" said he would not continue to provide official assistance unless the businessman agreed to pay a firm maintained in the names of the lawmaker's spouse and children.

Jackson also admits that he signed an agreement with the lawmaker "designed to conceal the illegal nature of the payments demanded by Representative A," the Justice Department statement said.

Jefferson had no immediate comment. An aide pointed to his previous statement: "I have never requested or accepted anything to perform a service or duty for which I have been elected."

Jackson is the second person to plead guilty in the investigation of the lawmaker from New Orleans.

Former Jefferson aide Brett Pfeffer pleaded guilty in January to bribing his former employer. In his plea agreement, Pfeffer said the House of Representatives member had asked for a share of iGate for helping promote the firm.

CNN's Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.

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