FEBRUARY 22, 2008
A three-term Republican congressman who is the Arizona chairman for John McCain’s presidential campaign has been indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiracy, extortion, money laundering and wire fraud.
U.S. Representative Rick Renzi illegally used his influence on a House Natural Resources Committee to orchestrate a land swap with the federal government that financially benefited him and his associates.
The 49-year-old lawmaker, who owns an insurance business, is also charged with embezzling more than $400,000 from insurance clients to fund his congressional campaign. No wonder, Renzi announced last August that he would not run for reelection.
A 26-page indictment lays out how the legislator and his business associates conspired to obtain federal government land by swapping land they owned together because the coveted public land sits above underground copper deposits.
For companies to obtain federal land they must swap property of equal value and the deals must be approved by the House Natural Resources Committee, which included Renzi. The indictment says that the congressman concealed nearly $1 million that he made for using his influence to seal the land deals.
Federal prosecutors say Renzi, who reportedly has 12 children, participated in the scam because he was having financial difficulty throughout 2005 and needed a substantial infusion of funds to keep his insurance business solvent and to maintain his personal lifestyle.
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