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Feds: Renzi made $700,000-plus in deal that led to indictment

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  • NEW: Rep. Rick Renzi received $733,000 from land deal, indictment says
  • NEW: Renzi's attorneys say their client has done nothing wrong and will fight charges
  • Indictment says Arizona Republican pushed land swap benefiting former partner
  • The 35-count indictment names Renzi, two other businessmen as defendants
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi has been indicted on charges he promised to support legislation in exchange for a land deal that netted the Arizona Republican more than $700,000, the Justice Department said Friday.

In a 35-count indictment unsealed early Friday, Renzi, 49, is charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, extortion and insurance fraud.

Also named in the indictment is Renzi's former business partner and real estate investor, James W. Sandlin, 56, of Sherman, Texas, and Andrew Beardall, 36, of Rockville, Maryland.

Renzi's attorneys, Reid Weingarten and Kelly Kramer, denied their client had done anything wrong.

"We will fight these charges until he is vindicated and his family's name is restored," the attorneys said in a statement.

The attorneys said their client had buried his father, Eugene Renzi, at Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday.

"We are disappointed that the Department of Justice would not allow a decent amount of time to pass to allow a son to mourn the passing of his father," the statement said.

At a news conference in Phoenix, Arizona, prosecutors said Renzi conspired with Sandlin to conduct a land swap in exchange for the congressman's push to get a House committee's approval for the deal.

Federal prosecutors said Renzi received $733,000 in the deal but did not disclose the income to Congress in his 2005 financial disclosure statement.

U.S. Attorney Diane Humetewa said that Renzi "used his official authority as a United States representative" to ensure that the 2005 federal land exchange included land owned by Sandlin.

Another goal of the conspiracy was to conceal that Renzi received a portion of the proceeds from the deal, according to the indictment.

Renzi was having financial difficulty in 2005 and "needed a substantial infusion of funds to keep his insurance business solvent and maintain his personal lifestyle," the indictment said.

The 26-page indictment outlines a series of transactions involving Renzi and Sandlin, who were co-owners of Fountain Realty and Development, until Renzi ran for a seat in Congress and sold his share of the company to Sandlin.

Sandlin bought out Renzi's interest for $200,000 and a note for $800,000, according to a statement from the Justice Department. In 2005, when Sandlin still owed him $700,000 on the note, "Renzi insisted that two separate entities doing business in Arizona purchase Sandlin's property in exchange for his support on land exchange legislation," authorities said.

Renzi and Beardall are charged with insurance fraud, accused of embezzling more than $400,000 in insurance premiums from the trust account of the Patriot Insurance Agency, a business owned by the Renzi family in Santa Cruz County, Arizona, to fund his congressional campaign in 2001 and 2002. They're also accused of making false statements to influence state regulatory investigations, a statement said.

"There were concealment efforts, misrepresentations and fraudulent statements made," Humetewa said.

If convicted, Renzi could face up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud and extortion and 20 years in prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering and concealing money laundering as well as lesser sentences for convictions on the other counts, prosecutors said.

Renzi and the other defendants will be served summonses to appear in U.S. Magistrate Court in Tucson, Arizona, for an arraignment March 6, Humetewa said.

Renzi has been under an ethical cloud since the FBI raided a family business last year. The FBI said it was investigating whether the congressman had used his office for personal gain.

He stepped down from the House Intelligence Committee in April after the raid.

Renzi, a three-term member of the House, announced in August that he would not seek re-election. He represents Arizona's 1st Congressional District. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Terry Frieden and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.

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