Do You Know Me?

Published: April 1, 2008

By Jim Lichtman
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“I’m a Congressional Representative who has been accused of using my position to promote business deals in Africa.”

? ? ?

“The FBI videotaped me receiving $100,000 in $100 bills in a leather briefcase at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Arlington, Virginia.”

? ? ?

“A subsequent raid on my office by the FBI found $90,000 of the cash in my freezer in $10,000 increments wrapped in aluminum foil and stuffed inside frozen-food containers.

“But without these… my indictment papers, which say that I solicited more than $500,000 in bribes, people just don’t remember that I’m Louisiana democrat William J. Jefferson!”

When this story first surfaced, Jefferson’s only response to media questions was, “There are two sides to every story.”

Well, here’s the rest of the Justice Department’s side according to a heavily footnoted article appearing in Wikipedia:

“An investigation began in mid-2005 after an investor alleged $400,000 in bribes were paid through a company maintained in the name of [Mr. Jefferson’s] spouse and children.  The money came from a tech company named iGate, Inc. of Louisville, Kentucky, and in return, it is alleged, Jefferson would help iGate’s business.

“The FBI videotaped Jefferson receiving a stock certificate from [an investor] for a company set up in Nigeria to promote iGate’s technology.

“Jefferson told [the investor/now informant] that he wanted a similar financial stake in the business in Ghana.

“Jefferson sought $10 million in financing from [the investor] to take over iGate and install ‘confidants’ on the new board. In two payments, [the investor] wired $89,225 to the ANJ Group LLC, a company controlled by Jefferson’s family.

“The FBI claims it has uncovered ‘at least seven other schemes in which Jefferson sought things of value in return for his official acts.’”

In January 2006, a former aide to Mr. Jefferson, Brett M. Pfeffer, pled guilty and implicated Jefferson in a corruption scheme involving an Internet company being set up in Nigeria.

In May 2006, Vernon Jackson, CEO of iGate, pled guilty to bribery of a public official and conspiracy to bribe a public official during a plea hearing in U.S. District Court.  According to the Associated Press, “court documents make clear that Congressman William Jefferson is the accused congressman, without naming him.”  The total amount of the bribes is reported to be between $400,000 and $1 million.

In that same month, the FBI executed a search warrant on Mr. Jefferson’s office removing files, some of which were believed to be sensitive legislative papers.  Many in Congress felt that the FBI’s actions raised serious abuse of power issues and the case moved up the food-chain to the Supreme Court.

According to a story that appears in today’s (April 1, 2008) Washington Post, the Supreme Court announced “that it willnot review a lower court’s decision that an FBI raid on Mr. Jefferson’s congressional office violated the Constitution.”

However, a New York Times story stated that, “The appeals court did not find that the raid itself was unconstitutional; rather, it found that the FBI violated constitutional separation of powers by allowing agents to look freely through Congressional files for incriminating evidence… The Justice Department said last August that the circuit court ruling would not affect the prosecution of Mr. Jefferson.”

While awaiting his trial, Mr. Jefferson has maintained his innocence and was reelected to another term as Louisiana’s representative.

He has yet to explain his side of the story.

“So, the next time you hear the word, ‘Indictment,’ I hope you’ll remember me.  I’m William J. Jefferson, representative from Louisiana.

“By the way, that cash the FBI found in my freezer… those were frozen assets.”

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