JUNE 19, 2008
The first member of a politically prominent Louisiana family that has seen five—including a veteran lawmaker —charged with federal crimes has pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to skim hundreds of thousands of dollars from charities operated by her corrupt relatives.
Brenda Jefferson, the youngest sister of nine-term Democrat Congressman William Jefferson, admitted that she knew of and participated in various schemes run by relatives who themselves face corruption charges. She said two of her family members made out checks to her from the charities’ accounts then forged the endorsement and deposited the money in their own accounts.
Brenda Jefferson was listed as an employee or member of the board of directors of the three Louisiana charities, which included Care Unlimited, Central City Adult Education and Orleans Metropolitan Housing. Authorities say the Jefferson family bilked the nonprofit groups of at least $600,000. The scheme was operated by sister Betty Jefferson and brother Mose Jefferson as well as their niece.
Earlier this year Mose Jefferson, a well-connected New Orleans lobbyist, was indicted for bribing a public school official to approve the purchase of millions of dollars worth of software sold by a company he represented. Mose Jefferson was charged with bribery, money laundering and obstruction of justice.
The most famous of the Jefferson clan is little brother (Representative William Jefferson), who made international headlines for stashing a cash bribe in his freezer. The FBI had captured him on tape accepting a $100,000 cash bribe and subsequently found most of the marked bills in his freezer, wrapped in aluminum foil in $10,000 increments.
Federal authorities say that the star of the Jefferson family accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from nearly a dozen companies in exchange for his influence on a powerful House Africa Caucus. He maintains his innocence and just this week announced that he will run for a tenth term in Congress. His trial is scheduled for later this year in Virginia.
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