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Foley focus of Florida criminal probe

Story Highlights

• Florida authorities launch Foley criminal investigation
• Foley in Florida Thursday for his father's funeral
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(CNN) -- The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has opened a criminal investigation of former Republican Rep. Mark Foley.

The six-term congressman resigned from the House in September after his inappropriate e-mails to young congressional pages came to light. He then entered a rehabilitation facility for alcohol abuse.

The FDLE opened a preliminary inquiry into Foley's conduct shortly after his resignation, and agency spokeswoman Kristen Perezluha said Thursday it has found "a basis to open a criminal investigation." (Watch what led to criminal investigation -- 1:11)

"The e-mails are one thing we're looking into," Perezluha said, adding the Florida agency was continuing to assist the FBI, which has been conducting its own Foley probe.

State authorities have been investigating whether Foley might have used computers in Florida to engage or solicit minors in illegal activities.

At the time it opened its inquiry, the FBI said it was not clear if Foley had broken any laws.

Foley was in Florida Thursday for the funeral of his father.

Sexual activity with minors denied

One e-mail Foley allegedly sent urged a page to "strip down and get relaxed."

The instant message was apparently sent to Jordan Edmund, who was one of the former pages referred to in the ABC News report in September that triggered Foley's resignation. (Read full story about Foley and page's messages)

In the message, the user Maf54, whom ABC News identified as Foley, asked the teen: "You in your boxers, too?"

The teen replied, "Nope, just got home. I had a college interview that went late."

"Well, strip down and get relaxed," Maf54 wrote back.

Edmund, who was 21 at the time the scandal broke, later worked on the staff of Republican Rep. Ernest Istook of Oklahoma.

Edmund's lawyer, Stephen Jones, said in October the contact between Foley and his client was minimal and there was no sexual contact between the two.

Foley's attorney, David Roth, has denied the former congressman ever engaged in sexual activity with minors.

Foley, who represented Florida's 16th District on the lower east coast, resigned September 29. His seat was taken by Democrat Timothy Mahoney in last week's midterm elections. (Read full story about election fallout)

Foley later announced he had been sexually molested as a boy by Catholic priest Anthony Mercieca, who is retired and lives on the Maltese island of Gozo in the Mediterranean.

Mercieca admitted in media interviews he had encounters with Foley that could be perceived as sexually inappropriate but denied having sex with him.

The priest worked from the mid-1960s until 2002 in south Florida, where Foley was an altar boy in the late 1960s.

Another former altar boy who lived in North Miami in the 1970s also emerged in late October to say the priest fondled him. (Read full story about ex-altar boy's allegation)

House ethics investigation

As accusations involving past abuses flew, the controversy intensified in Washington.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert urged House ethics committee investigators to work quickly to unravel the scandal.

The investigation was reported to be focusing on House leaders who were allegedly told about the e-mails, when they were told and what was done.

Hastert and other Republicans suggested the revelations were timed to hurt the GOP in the midterm elections.

Facing pressure to step down, Hastert refused, insisting he had "done nothing wrong" because he had learned of Foley's inappropriate messages only just before the scandal emerged.

But Foley's former chief of staff, Kirk Fordham, testified before the ethics panel that at least three years ago he asked top GOP aides, including Hastert's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, to intervene to stop Foley's inappropriate behavior.

Palmer denied Fordham's account.

Fordham also testified about an episode several years ago in which Foley is said to have been drunk and tried to enter the page dormitory.

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